School committee says new rating system misses the mark

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    GREENVILLE — In May, Gov. Paul LePage unveiled an A-F grading system of elementary and high schools in hopes of making educators more accountable. But the recent grading has drawn criticism in educational circles. Educators believe the system is providing them with education that they already knew: Affluent school systems faired well and poor ones didn’t.

    Greenville High was one of 75 percent of the state’s schools which graded at a C-level or lower. The elementary school didn’t receive a rating. The committee closed the Nickerson Elementary School Building last June and reconfigured their school program. The school’s reconfiguration resulted in the elementary school not being eligible to receive a grade.
    The Greenville School Committee discussed the results on May 20. Superintendent Beth Lorigan reported the new grading system wasn’t supportive of public school systems and the results were not helpful.
    “It reported stuff that we already knew. Private schools like John Bapst and ones located in the southern part of the state, with financial support, do really well,” Lorigan said. “While small, rural schools have a harder time. These schools are limited financially with the programming they provide.”
    Lorigan believes the grading system which places an emphasis on standardized testing didn’t serve as the best critique of a school’s educational performance. She indicated an important aspect of the educational experience wasn’t factored into the grading system. Lorigan believes how many graduates pursue a college or trade school education is an important aspect of the educational experience.
    “I think our students are making good progress,” she said. “Our data shows many students go on to college or a trade school. I feel that’s an important aspect of what we do, but it wasn’t part of the system.”
    In other action, the committee has adopted a pilot program aimed at middle school students to reduce their drop-out rate. The school department will implement a program aimed at sixth-graders designed to encourage students in developing a work ethic and skills for success in the workplace.
    “I think middle school is a really good place to start. It will start with the sixth-graders and if it’s successful then it would be expanded to grades 7 and 8,” Lorigan said.
    The committee has also approved the school calendar for the 2013-14 year. Teachers will begin the year on Wednesday, Aug. 28 with three workshop days. Students will begin their first of 175 schools days on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

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