Education Commissioner Bowen and I have tried to sound the alarms nearly two years. Now, is the time to act. This week, we shared a plan with the Maine people that will move us in the right direction. The report, Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance is a clear indication that Maine must implement education reform. I want to be very clear: my Administration will continue to put students first when making policy decisions. Teachers are also an important part of reforming our system. My Administration supports both the student and teacher.
So, what has this study told us? Two things: First, test scores in Maine are stagnant while other states are making progress. In fact, while Maine spends $4,000 more per student per year – well above the average for the states – student achievement gains were the second worst in the country. In the 4th grade, Maine had the smallest gains of any state in overall annual rate of growth in reading and math scores combined. Secondly, Maine’s scores are still above average. But Maine has made no substantial progress in over a decade on those scores, and other states are catching up and passing Maine. What this tells us is that we were doing great 20 years ago, but those standards aren’t doing us any good today – just ask employers.
We are on par to be average and I am not a fan of average because it means we’re just as close to the bottom as we are to the top. We can and must do better. We must improve and in order to improve we must adapt to the needs of today’s students and today’s economy.
STEM skills are vital to successful outcomes for our students. STEM skills are crucial to our employers. Problem solvers and critical thinkers are in high demand so our education system must be able to provide those skills to our students so they are better prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.
So, what do we need to do to improve? How do we provide our students and teachers the tools they need to be successful?
We get there by way of meaningful policy changes. Expanding access to our CTE’s, establishing charter schools and expanding digital learning opportunities are initiatives we have worked on already. But more needs to be done.
We’re going to ask for more change because for too long we’ve been stuck on the status quo which is failing our students and the entire system.
I have challenged superintendents, union bosses, and principals to be bold, to not settle for the status quo, and to work with the Administration moving forward.
Let’s work toward solutions rather than opposing change that has been proven to work in other states. For far too long superintenddents, union bosses and principals have missed the mark when it comes to improving our education system: They have not shared a plan with my administration. Our plan is easy to remember - ABC. It stands for Accountability, Best practices, and Choice. Accountability means creating a system that measures school performance and providing assistance to those that are struggling; best practices means looking at other educational systems that have yielded proven results; and choice means giving students more learning options, such as open-enrollment for schools. It’s a plan we will continue to work on and share with you details in the upcoming months.
All our children have potential and the ability to succeed - we just have to help them get there. It’s time to put students first.