Portland school Scorecard shows mixed results

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PORTLAND — A School Department Scorecard presented to the School Board last week by Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk shows students are making progress, but with room for improvement.

Caulk also presented the board with results of a survey of parents and high school students conducted over the last year. The survey asked them about their experiences in the district so far.

The Scorecard, which was launched during the 2013-2014 academic year, shows students came near or met baseline averages from previous years, when targets were missed.

In student achievement, which measures reading, writing and math proficiency in grades three, five and eight, as well as others, targets were generally missed in the 2013-2014 school year. Students mostly came near or met the baselines averages of the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years.

Some areas where students struggled the most included eighth-grade writing and math proficiency.

Areas where there was significant growth included fifth-grade reading and math, sixth-grade math, and third-grade reading. Additionally, there was growth in students scoring 1550 or higher on the SATs, although the targets were missed.

The percent of students with a PSAT score of 133 or higher all missed the target, with some growth made. These statistics, too, show that students came near or met the baselines averages.

The Scorecard had to be revised Dec. 18, after Caulk’s initial release, because the Dec. 16 version erroneously listed Grade 11 writing and science baselines as lower than they should have been. A corrected version was released Dec. 18, showing writing proficiency remained static, while science proficiency declined slightly.

Caulk said the Scorecard showed “some groups of students are falling far behind their peers,” and said that more must be done to make sure “our students’ demography does not determine their destiny.”

School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said the presentation showed improvement and a positive year on average, but there is “certainly more work to do.” She said there is more work to do to have students graduating at higher rates and being more college ready.

“Until we get to that point there’s always more to do,” she said.

In order to get the growth rate up for student achievement, Caulk said the district will invest in early education to make sure all students are ready for kindergarten, increase access to pre-kindergarten for students and families, increase student learning time, and extend the school year for students in primary grades who are reaching towards proficiency.

The Scorecard also sets performance targets for the current school year and for 2017-2018. Caulk has stated the district has a goal of becoming the best small urban school district in the country by 2017.

In a press release, he said the Scorecard and survey give the schools “a robust picture of student achievement and school climate” as they move towards achieving the Comprehensive Plan. The Plan states that all students will graduate high school, all students will will be prepared for college, and all students will participate in activities that demonstrate service to the community, individual creativity and physical wellness. 

Caulk said the parent/student survey results showed that overall respondents thought the schools are safe, children enjoy attending them, parents feel welcomed, and that a majority of students intend to graduate. More than a quarter of parents participated in the survey, and half of all students participated.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.