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Testing in Maine: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2009-2010 Maine used the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP, pronounced "knee cap") to test students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 in reading and math, and in grades 5, 8 and 11 in writing. The NECAP was administered to grade 11 students for the first time in fall 2009. These tests are standards-based, which means they measure specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Maine.

Students in grade 11 took the Maine High School Assessment (MHSA) in critical reading, math, writing and science. The MHSA is a combination of the College Board's SAT exam and additional questions to address Maine's state standards. The Maine Department of Education reports student performance on the test in terms of how well students are meeting state standards; these results are displayed on GreatSchools profiles. Students also receive official SAT score reports.

How are the tests scored?

NECAP and MHSA results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four levels: exceeds the standard, meets the standard, partially meets the standard and does not meet the standard. The goal is for all students to meet or exceed state standards on the test.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For each subject in the NECAP and MHSA, the combined percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards is displayed.

Why do the tests matter?

NECAP and MHSA results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. Maine currently does not require that students score at a particular level on the tests to be promoted to the next grade or to graduate from high school. However, many colleges use SAT scores as a factor in making admissions and scholarship decisions.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for his school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home.

If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for obtaining supplemental services or for transferring to a higher-performing school.

A few parting words

Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

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