2009-12-23 / Front Page

Mt. Abram recognized nationally as a top school

By David Hart Irregular Staff

SALEM –- U.S. News & World Report each year works in collaboration with School Evaluation Services to determine the very best public high schools in the country.

Of 21,786 high schools evaluated, Mt. Abram Regional High School has been honored with a “bronze” status based on academic and enrollment data. In a thorough evaluation process, 1,750 were recognized for considerably outperforming their state’s standards. These top schools were placed into gold, silver, bronze or honorable mention categories.

In Maine, 10 public high schools were recognized as leaders in college readiness. Telstar and Waterville High School were also given bronze status.

According to the U.S. News methodology, “A threestep process determined the best high schools. The first two steps ensured that the schools serve all their students well, using state proficiency standards as the benchmarks. For those schools that made it past the first two steps, a third step assessed the degree to which schools prepare students for college-level work.”

Superintendent Quenten Clark said he’s glad that Mt. Abram had been nationally recognized, but questioned his state’s standards for developing AYP, (Adequate Yearly Progress).

“The system of evaluation we have in Maine is bizarre to put it politely,” Clark said.

In future years, nearly every school in Maine will not meet the standards of AYP, Clark explained. The design of the standard will force each and every school to someday have every student in every school not only pass every test, but be placed at 100 percent in reading, language arts and math. It also is designed to have every student that enters high school to graduate that school in four years.

Last year Mt. Abram High School did not meet the state developed AYP standard. In past years, they’ve met the wide array of standards that go beyond standard testing.

To get beyond the state consideration of failing by not meeting AYP standards, MTA will have to meet AYP for the next two consecutive years.

AYP is a progressive set of standards that sets goals for Maine schools by increasing the performance standards each year. Eventually the bar is set so that someday each school will have to meet the standard all the way to 100 percent.

Anything short of that would be considered a failure, Clark explained.

The standards are set way to high, he said. “We don’t set a goal for our elementary basketball team to go out and beat the Celtics.”

“I obviously think that Mt. Abram is a great school and I think there are some great schools here in Maine, but some of these schools are failing to make AYP.

“I fail to see how that advantages education in Maine. If everybody is failing then nobody is failing so the truly failing schools are not going to be improved or resources are not going to be applied to them. We’re going to be chasing our tails with the good schools that should not be considered failing in the first place.”

Clark also questioned how politically the system sets Maine at an advantage. He asked, would a future governor try to attract business to Maine with most all of the schools in the state failing?

“I have a hard time reconciling the fact that were held in a high regard at a national (bronze) level and were considered failing at the state level. How that benefits the State of Maine or any goal the state would have seems contradictory,” Clark said.

“I have this level of confusion of what we’re trying to achieve with our Maine standards, but it’s nice to know that on the national level, we’re held in this high regard.”

“Congratulation to the Mt. Abram staff, faculty and students on a job well done,” said school director Judy Dill after a recent school board meeting. “We must be doing something right.”

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