April 30, 2013
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Over the last three months, you may have heard about a plan being developed by Governor LePage’s Administration to rate all public schools in Maine. Very little information had been shared by his administration and very little input was asked for by the Governor and his Commissioner of Education, Stephen Bowen, in looking to develop their plan. Only over the last few weeks did the Maine Dept of Education finally start to share specific information with legislators and schools. What we were told initially is that SAT test scores, growth in SAT tests scores and graduation rates would be the data used to determine the amount of points each high school would earn. We recently found out that the grade a school would get would be based on points earned in each of these areas and that the points earned would be based on a formula the Department of Education had developed. It was shared that each school would be graded on an A – F scale depending on how many points earned. The Governor felt this would be the easiest way for the public to understand how their communities’ schools were doing.
This past Monday, Superintendents around our state received the grading reports for each of their schools from the Maine Department of Education. On May 1st, this information is being shared statewide on the Maine Dept of Ed Website. Dr. Davis sent me the report Monday afternoon so I could review it and see if there were any errors. We had some questions about the data collected, but the state has told us that their data is correct.
I think you know that I am a strong believer in using student and staff data to measure progress, developing plans based on data, and the trends you get when comparing data along with looking at successful programming alternatives to support our students needs. Attached to this letter is Massabesic High School’s, School Report Card for 2011-2012, which I believe you will find fairly easy to read. I am sorry to share with you that the grade the state has given us is a “D”. Before you review their report card, there are several points about this report card that I need to review with you:
- Our overall SAT test scores are not very good (although we did see them rise in 2010 & 2011). We know this and have been working in many ways to improve each student’s learning through multiple program, curriculum and instructional improvements, along with reallocating the resources that our district’s taxpayers have made available to us.
- Our grade would actually have been a “C” if we had not been given a one-grade penalty for not reaching the 95% participation rate (our rate was 93.6%), for the number of juniors taking the SAT Test last May.
- We would have reached the 95% rate if three more of our juniors had taken the test. Twenty-five of last year’s juniors out of the 268 in the junior class at that time missed the test on the Saturday test date. The next week we made every effort to have as many of those students take it, but students with assorted attendance concerns, along with those who refused to take it, made it difficult for us. The state says we did not get to 95% (we are still checking these numbers).
- This one test does not share the full picture of the many academic successes that a large number of our students receive!
- A “C” is not something your high school staff or your high school principal would ever settle for, but would be an important starting point and would represent a sense of progress for us to have built on based on our recent efforts to improve!
- A “C” would have placed us in the middle of the scores that all the high schools in Maine received and would have been more proof positive that even though we are tied for second to last (123 of 124) in per pupil funding for all high schools in Maine and receive 24% less funding per student as compared to the state average, our students and staff are making progress with the resources we do receive!
- Your high school has worked hard to improve instruction, increased student and staff expectations, not accepted failure (reduced failure rates by over 50%) and has improved graduation rates over the last four years, with our rates increasing three years in a row to a new high of over 85% of our students graduating!
- The New England Association of Schools and Colleges told us we earned full accreditation (Sept 2011) and this past January took us off of warning status for the standard Core Values, Beliefs and Learning Expectations.
- I am concerned that some parents, guardians and community members will only see the grade of “D” as a sign that MHS is not a place where kids can be successful as that is NOT true!
- Lastly, I want to share with you that I am concerned that this grade will give some of our students doubts in the effectiveness of our school, our staff and them as learners and will bring back some of the “What do you expect? I am from Massabesic” comments that we have worked hard these last four years to give and show reason through the many positive success stories of our students not to be made.
In closing, I want to thank you for reading this letter and for the positive support you have and are giving our students along with the staff of Massabesic High School. You have my word that we will continue to work hard at improving our students and school’s results! Please know that WE are NOT a “D” school and WE do NOT have “D” students!
Very truly yours
Christian M. Elkington