SAT scores: It all depends on how you look at the numbers

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When Principal Ted Finn reviewed Lake Region High School’s latest report card — SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test) scores — he had mixed emotions.

If he looks at the numbers from a “glass half full” perspective, Finn can say that students produced an 11% improvement in math and reading over a three-year span.

If Finn takes the approach of a parent who pushes a son or daughter to give their best effort to achieve top grades, he isn’t happy with the latest round of numbers.

After taking two big steps forward last year, LRHS took a step backward in 2013.

In 2011, juniors posted a combined math/reading score of 74%.

In 2012, the number jumped dramatically to 92% as the school started to see some reward from its major overhaul in curriculum.

This year, the number dropped to 85% — a 45 in reading and a 40 in math.

“I am concerned,” Finn told SAD 61 school board members Monday night. “We’ll keep at it.”

Schools are evaluated based on Adequate Yearly Progress — a combination of the previous AYP status and whether they meet academic, test participation and attendance/graduation targets.

Targets are the percentage of students who must be proficient in reading and math. Targets must be met by the student population as a whole and in eight subgroups — students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, limited English-proficient and five ethnic groups.

Proficient means students meet or exceed the standards in the content area.

Of the 584 Maine public schools, 204 are “making AYP” (targets in math and reading have been reached); 106 schools are in “monitor” status, meaning their status was “making AYP” in 2011–12, but did not meet targets in at least one subject in 2011–12 testing; 217 are in “continuous improvement priority schools” status (have not met targets for at least two years in a row); 46 schools are in “CIPS on hold” status (CIPS last year and met all their targets this year); 6 schools with no AYP status due to no data (two new schools, four were reorganized).

Here’s how Lake Region juniors performed:

• Reading target, 78% of students must be proficient. 118 tested. LRHS last year 48%, this year 45%. LR two-year span, up 7%. State average 47% last year to 49% this year.

• Math target, 66% of students must be proficient. 118 tested. LRHS last year 44%, this year 40%. LR two-year span, up 4%. State 46% to 48%.

• Writing, 117 tested, LRHS 39% to 34%. LR two-year span, up 6%. State average 47% to 44%.

• Science, 121 tested, LRHS 46% to 41%. Two-year span, up 3%. State average 45% to 41%.

Economically disadvantaged

• Reading, 59 tested, 41% to 38%; state average 30% to 33%.

• Math, 59 tested, 33% to 31%; state average 29% to 30%.

• Writing, 58 tested, 29% to 30%; state average 29% to 27%.

• Science, 63 tested, 37% to 31%; state average 30% to 27%.

Gender

Reading, 56 males and 62 females tested; males 48% last year to 38% this year (state 43% to 45%); females 49% to 52% (state 50% to 52%).

• Math, males 43% to 34% (state 47% to 47%); females 37% to 45% (state 47% to 47%).

• Writing, males 32% to 21% (state 40% to 37%); females 49% to 44% (state 53% to 49%).

• Science, male 51% to 37% (state 49% to 44%); females 41% to 46% (state 40% to 37%).

What’s next

SAD 61 Assistant Superintendent Deb Howard admits several challenges await school officials to reverse some downward trending, but she added, “We’re not giving up because the youth in this community are worth every effort.”

Principal Finn outlined a wide variety of efforts made over the past few years to specifically try to improve test results.

LRHS offers bus service and breakfast to juniors to attend SAT testing, which falls on a Saturday. Those who attend are also awarded a “day off.” Finn noted other “rural schools” don’t offer such perks, yet post solid attendance numbers. Twenty-one LR students failed to attend the testing session. School officials made arrangements for those missing students to take another exam — Maine Purpose Only Test — and 17 showed up. A year ago, LRHS initially saw its overall state grade come in as a “D” due to SAT attendance. Officials appealed based on inaccurate numbers, and had the grade upped to a “C.”

Others programs to improve student learning and academic performance include:

— 40 minutes of math and English every day for freshmen and sophomores, who are not enrolled in Honors level math classes. Previously, students had math and English every other day for 75 to 80 minutes;

— Offering a math intervention program to address freshmen with math achievement scores ranging between fourth- to seventh-grade levels;

— Expecting all teachers to incorporate SAT testing strategies into their various subject areas;

— Continue to offer after-school help on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (activity buses available to transport kids home); Food for Thought program on Tuesdays after school.

— Collaboration between high school and middle school math teachers to strengthen curriculum development;

— Develop multi-tiered student support system to focus on academic interventions based on the severity of a student’s need.

Although the high school offered a SAT Prep class, Finn felt there was little to no improvement in test scores.

In regards to graduation rate, Lake Region has been on target, moving from 76% two years ago to 91%. In 2012, 140 of 146 seniors graduated, and by encouraging the six to take part in the extended school program, that number turned into 146 of 146.

Last year, LRHS faced the same scenario. This time, one student opted for the extended program and ultimately graduated, leaving the final figure of 141 out of 146. To meet the state’s target, schools must post a graduation rate of 83% or greater.

One area Principal Finn will continue to seek improvement in will be parental involvement at LRHS. When Finn hosted a Laker Pride Night, there was a good turnout of staff and students, but just 10 families were in attendance. Finn has a Principal’s Advisory Council, which meets once a month. Anyone can attend, and Finn hopes more people will take advantage of it.

When he hears SAD 61 elementary school principals report 98 to 100% parent turnout for Parent/Teacher conferences, Finn would like to see the same level of involvement at his school.

“I’ll keep trying,” he said. “Any suggestions?”

 

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