A mixed bag of student progress in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — Student assessment results for the past year are in, and for Scarborough students, there is good and bad news.

At the K-5 grade level, math test scores trended upward in recent years, with scores for middle and high school students for the most part trending downward toward the national average.

Overall, students have regressed in reading and writing, according to data collected from state assessments.

Monique Culbertson, director of curriculum and assessments, presented the annual data at a School Board meeting March 20.

Culbertson attributed the increases in math for younger students to investments made in the past decade into reorganizing the math curricula and additional professional learning at those grade levels.

The investments were a reaction to test scores from 2000, when 60 percent of elementary students were considered “partially meeting standards” in mathematics. As of 2013, around 60 percent of elementary students were considered “meeting standards,” with around 20 percent exceeding standards.

Though plans at the higher grade levels to introduce new curriculum materials have been in the works for a while, they were only allowed to start last year at the high school because of budget allowances, according to Culbertson. But she said planning development at the higher grades is in place to try and achieve similar results from middle and high school students.

As far as writing and reading, Culbertson said strategies are already in place to reallocate resources from mathematics at the younger grade levels to literacy, including a two-year implementation plan to make writing a primary focus for teacher development.

Culbertson also warned that students are feeling the brunt of cuts to programs like foreign language at all grade levels, and stagnation in the number of Advanced Placement courses available at the high school.

According to Culbertson, the fiscal 2015 budget proposal includes one additional foreign language position and another guidance counselor, as well as the rearranging of current staff to better serve the areas suggested by the test scores.

“We take pride in squeezing dollars, but as you can see, there’s a point at which there’s a diminishing return, and you can see that in the data,” she told the board.

Though concerned about the impact of the testing on students who do not plan to go to college, Board Member Jackie Perry emphasized the importance of the assessment information.

“This is data we can use to support our needs,” she said.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.