Maine should junk local assessments, commissioner says


AUGUSTA – Maine teachers and school systems have spent years designing tests to see if students were learning what they were supposed to. It was mandated by the state.

On Tuesday, Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron proposed repealing the controversial local assessments because the tests are ineffective, too fragmented across Maine, and not improving education.

A spokesman for the Maine teachers union agrees the assessments should go.

“We’re 120 percent in favor of it. It’s been killing our teachers,” said Chris Galgay of the Maine Education Association. The assessments have meant “testing for the wrong reasons for the sake of testing. It’s almost become a competition between districts to see who can have the most assessments,” Galgay said.

Teachers have not been able to understand what the local assessments were for, Galgay said. “I have colleagues in Lewiston who say they test before they cover the material” because there’s so much testing they’re mandated to do.

Across Maine, teachers and school districts have spent three years developing the assessments, Galgay said. “It’s another case of a lot of school districts going in different directions. We should be assessing kids to see what they know so we can move on.” The problem is “it’s been unclear what is the state asking for,” he said.

The state adopted the Maine Learning Results, a complete set of education standards, in 1997. The standards were being phased in.

Schools have been working for years to develop tests, projects and other assessments to determine whether students have met the standards. Recent tests have shown Maine students aren’t making progress, and are at a plateau.

A report done by Canadian expert Michael Fullan concluded that in Maine, too much testing was getting in the way of teaching. The local assessments often had different interpretations of the Maine Learning Results, and the assessments weren’t helping education.

Fullan’s report was released Tuesday at a State House news conference.

The local assessments will be replaced with new tests that will be less fragmented, clearer and better focused on monitoring student progress and teaching, Gendron said.

The legislative proposal to repeal the tests is before the Education Committee. A public hearing has not yet been scheduled.

– Bonnie Washuk