SAD 61 test scores leads to a ‘call for action’

'We need a culture change...(Many students feel they are) not as smart and not as capable as students at other schools' — Mallory Strain, LRHS senior and student representative to the SAD 61 School Board

'We need a culture change...(Many students feel they are) not as smart and not as capable as students at other schools' — Mallory Strain, LRHS senior and student representative to the SAD 61 School Board

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

A new test, but similar results.

SAD 61 continues to struggle on state assessment math tests with most students scoring “well below” or “below” state expectations.

The results of the March 2016 testing were unveiled by Assistant Superintendent of Schools Pat Hayden at the Dec. 19 school board meeting.

Hayden pointed out that for the third straight year a different test was used, thus it will take some time before school officials can make valid comparisons. She added that students took the assessment test for the first time online.

Terminology may have changed, but the end results have school board members wondering why SAD 61 continues to underperform.

While nearly 50% the Grade 3-5 students tested were “at” or “above” state expectations in English Language Arts/Literacy, the numbers plummeted in Grades 6-8 to 31.72%, 36.59% and 28.57%. High school students posted a 47.52%.

“We are not content where we are,” Hayden told directors. “There is more work to be done in the literacy area.”

To pull scores up on future tests, Hayden said curriculum and instructional changes will be made once officials fully analyze the data.

Statewide, math scores remain low. Mathematics in SAD 61 remains a serious trouble spot. The percentage of students scoring “well below” or “below” state expectations were:

Grade 3: 50.69%

Grade 4: 64.66%

Grade 5: 67.63%

Grade 6: 67.59%

Grade 7: 72.58%

Grade 8: 73.81%

High School: 82.86%

Hayden pointed out that the district has contracted with a math coach, who ultimately will visit every classroom in the district and observe teacher instruction. The math coach provides feedback, as well as offers alternative approaches as to how  lessons can be taught since not all students learn and comprehend the same way.

Casco Director Stan Buchanan questioned that with the many changes and instructional adjustments that have been made over the years why has SAD 61 continued to score poorly?

“Have we ever really found out what is really happening?” Buchanan asked Hayden. “We’re not making headway, and we need some type of call to action by the administrative team to get to the bottom of it. Find out what the obstacles are and crash through those barriers. Its tiring hearing we’re trying to do this and that, but nothing is working…We have to dig deeper.”

Buchanan also termed the state constantly changing its testing methods as “asinine.”

Casco Director Tom Hancock found little satisfaction in Hayden’s comments that in some cases 50% or close to 50% of the students were “at” state expectations.

“Shouldn’t all of the children be at least at the state average?” he asked.

Casco Director Phil Shane wondered if students were taking the tests seriously?

Bridgton Director Nina Stoddard felt, as a parent and a school board member, that the results were “deplorable.” She feels that the district has quality teachers and an “intelligent student body,” which should translate into better state assessment scores.

“Something is happening that is taking the focus off?” she said.

But, what?

Senior Mallory Strain may have the answer.

The student representative to the SAD 61 School Board said Lake Region H.S. needs a “culture change” before results will improve. She says many classmates feel they are “not as smart” and “not as capable” as students at other schools.

Strain knows the feeling. She is a very good student, having been just selected as the first alternate to the Youth Senate program to be held in Washington, D.C. based on a well-written essay. Feeling she might be over her head taking Pre-Calculus, Strain settled on statistics instead. The risk of failing leads many students to enroll in less challenging courses.

Strain encouraged Hayden and school officials to “take a minute and talk with kids.”

“Ask them what do you need help with and what don’t you understand?” she said.

Bridgton Director Karla Swanson Murphy said if students are encouraged to take risks, SAD 61 needs to provide a supportive environment.

LRHS Principal Erik Good agreed with Strain’s assessment. In his first year on the job, Good saw a degree of “complacency,” but feels the culture is slowing changing with the arrival of proficiency-based learning system — which calls for students to learn and show proficiency in a subject area before they can move on to the next lesson.

Hayden will provide an update to the school board at a future meeting.

In other school board news:

Right to record. Sebago Director Joseph McMahon has a very hard time hearing conversations amongst fellow school board members.

So, he records board meetings, workshops and committee gatherings and later reviews conversations had that night. On a couple of occasions, he asked that board minutes be amended to accurately reflect comments he had made.

Earlier this year, some directors took offense with McMahon for not informing them that he was recording meetings. McMahon claimed that under Maine’s Right to Know law, he is permitted to record any and all school board meetings — which are open to the public — with or without notifying others.

At the Dec. 19 school board meeting, directors gave first reading approval to a “Recorded or Live Broadcast” policy (McMahon voted against).

The policy requires, “all persons who attend and wish to record any meeting of the Board and/or its committees must inform the chair(man) or secretary to the committee of their intentions upon arrival. A written record will be kept. Further, all recordings must be done in the open without any disturbance of the meeting. All recordings must be done in such a manner so that the view of the Board to the audience and the audience view to the Board must not be obstructed. Further, any recording before or after the public proceedings may be subject to Maine State Law regarding interception of oral communications, which is a Class C crime.”

Any violation of these rules “will be seen as interfering with the orderly conduct of Board proceedings and the offending party will be asked to leave the meeting.”

In an e-mail, McMahon said, “I am not aware of any prior recording activity that has interfered with the orderly conduct of proceedings. This policy is unnecessary, as it is already in existing law. The mention of a Class C crime seems to be a threat. It, too, is covered by existing law.”

Maine’s Right to Know law addresses recorded or live broadcasts as follows, “In order to facilitate the public policy so declared by the Legislature of opening the public's business to public scrutiny, all persons shall be entitled to attend public proceedings and to make written, taped or filmed records of the proceedings, or to live broadcast the same, provided the writing, taping, filming or broadcasting does not interfere with the orderly conduct of proceedings. The body or agency holding the public proceedings may make reasonable rules and regulations governing these activities, so long as these rules or regulations do not defeat the purpose of this subchapter.”

McMahon added, “I will assume that this policy will not be used to impede the right of the public to exercise its rights. However, it would seem to be unnecessary and it may give to the public the appearance of a threat and that there may be something that the board wishes to hide.”

LRTV records most board meetings, and airs the proceedings on the public cable access channel.

At 6:56 p.m. on Dec. 19, McMahon informed School Board chairman Janice Barter he planned to use a voice-recording device.

Service recognized. Naples Director Beth Chaplin was recognized with a Lamp of Learning plaque for six years of service. Meanwhile, Casco Director Phil Shane was recognized for 23 years of service on the school board.

Coming and going. Principal Cheryl Turpin reported that Stevens Brook Elementary has an enrollment of 304 students — 51 moved in, 32 moved out, which is a transiency rate of 30%.

Penny War for holiday wishes. Sebago Elementary’s annual Penny War raised $880 to be used for the “Making Holiday Wishes” program. Student Council members assisted with the purchasing of gifts. SES also thanked TD Bank for donating a large shopping bag full of snack bags, which many children enjoyed.

What is the objective? Sometimes, students might wonder what is the objective of learning plans. At Songo Locks School, those objectives are being made quite clear. Learning targets are being identified and posted for students to see. One teacher uses a flip chart that she carries from classroom to classroom. The chart also enables her to flip back to objectives already covered.

Another teacher posed her learning targets in the form of questions and then used the posting as an organizer to record notes, which the students could reference to complete their individual written response.

Students are able to respond more readily when administrators ask them what they are learning and why their teachers are asking them to engage in activities.

Personnel moves. Kate Dargie was approved as a day treatment support technician at Songo Locks School, replacing Tania Brooks who resigned. There were six applicants, three were interviewed.

Deborah Rousseau was approved as a special education technician III at Lake Region Middle School, replacing Louise Chapman, who resigned. There were six applicants, four were interviewed.

Linda Freese, a French teacher at Lake Region High School, will retire at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Donations accepted. Theresa Hammond of Fiber Arts Cottage in Bridgton donated $500 worth of cloth to Lake Region High School.

Mary and Jeff Boccardi and Harry Chouinard each donated $25 to Lake Region Middle School in lieu of purchasing magazines.

Please follow and like us: