The results of the last MEA test have been posted. Depending on how you view the scores you get a different picture.
There were increases in math and reading at almost every grade level, which is good. However, when you look closely the increases were not that impressive. The average reading scores of grades 4,5,7, and 8 increased by one point while grade 6 decreased by one point. Math scores increased at roughly the same level across the board.
Get down even closer and the results become a little more interesting. There were drops in students who partially met or did not meet standards at almost every grade level in both math and reading. Some drops were greater than others. When the three year data is examined a few grade levels simple did a yo-yo, gaining a point from 07 to 08 then dropping a point this year. We can’t really call that a success in education.
Math scores do not show a promising improvement from last year. Grades 3-5 post an overall gain of only 2% who met standards, while grades 6-8 posted an overall loss of 1% who met standards. Maine students shined on the MEA exams when it came to reading. 11% more students of grades 3-5 met standards, with 12% gains in 6-8.
Back to the big picture. It’s time for a downer. Only 68% of students 3-5 met or exceeded reading standards. 73% of students 6-8 did the same. In math 67% of 3-5 and 55% of 6-8. Almost half of middle school students cannot at least meet state standards. In no area do we even get three quarters of the students meeting standards, though 6-8 almost made it. Let’s stop to consider what that means. The MEA is not asking that children be geniuses or qualify for every AP class in high school. These are pieces of knowledge that children should be learning at each grade at a minimum. I’m not going to debate issues with standards of testing methods here. We’ll save that for another time. I will say that these figures are unacceptable. Even Commissioner of Education Sue Gendron stated there is more work to do saying, “The Department is keenly aware of, and wishes to recognize, the intensified efforts of teachers and administrators at the local level who are largely responsible for these gains. We also know that more work needs to be done to support those students who are not yet meeting standards.”
With roughly $2 billion being spent on education anyone who puts a dollar into Maine’s coffers should be paying attention. Kids or no, education is essential to the economic outlook of Maine. Educational excellence will attract business to Maine and create the workforce to take those new jobs, better jobs. We’ve talked about combating dropout rates and getting more kids to into college. Let’s start looking at the percentage meeting standards. Everyone should know what these standards are. Everyone should start asking why 100% of our students aren’t meeting them. This isn’t an attack on teachers or Maine schools. Teachers are working hard even when there are many factors working against them. This is a call for people to be more involved. This is a call to stop asking why we aren’t at 100% but how we can get there.