Superintendents of RSU 10 and SAD 44 had mixed reviews of Gov. Paul LePage’s remarks on Maine education during his State of the State address last week.
The responses ranged from proposing that a report card grading schools from A to F is against all the recent changes in school assessments to a statement that all schools should have a method for assessing student performance.
RSU 10 Superintendent Tom Ward said he doesn’t mind the idea of having a report card, but it would need to show a number of different assessing components. The suggestion of a ranking of A to F goes against everything Maine schools are trying to do, he said.
“We already have a report card with standards-based education. As a state, we are very progressive. We’re ahead of the game — that is what we should be promoting. We need to give credit where credit is due with the efforts made to improve education,” he said.
Under the standards-based education program, students are assessed according to how well they master certain knowledge, as well as how much improvement has been made under the Adequate Yearly Progress program. If the level is too low, a school is put on a list to work on the mastery of a specific subject or learning component.
RSU 10 includes the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford and Hanover.
SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy said grading schools would be LePage’s prerogative, but it would have to share some of the same components as the Annual Yearly Progress program and standards-based education.
He said SAD 44 recently acquired a program known as Accuplacer, which tests students at the end of their junior year to gauge how well they are doing.
“We then will have a good idea of their performance and can make adjustments during their senior year,” he said.
SAD 44 includes the towns of Andover, Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock.
Regarding the governor’s statement that sending high schools should be responsible for any remediation a student may need when he or she gets to college, Murphy said none of the students who now attend one of the University of Maine campuses needed remediation, and only a few who attend one of the community colleges required additional assistance.
The Accuplacer test should reduce that number, he said.
“We already have a lot of ways to gauge how we’re doing,” Murphy said. “The way to remediate is to look at curriculum. For example, if many kids are going to a community college or the University of Maine system and need remedial math courses, then we need to concentrate on math.”
Ward said the governor’s proposal for sending high schools to provide any necessary remediation is “an unfair shot at public schools, universities and community colleges.”
“They have to admit they have lowered standards. We should all work in a collaborative way for students,” he said.
Ward also supports a five-year high school, and said the current move to establish mass customized education should also improve a school’s overall performance.
RSU 10 and SAD 44 have begun a move toward mass customized education with some teachers using it, at least in part, in their classes. The philosophy behind MCE is for students to learn at their own speed while still assuring that a certain body of knowledge is mastered, or reaches acceptable levels.
The governor’s speech came at a time when school districts are struggling to develop operating budgets for 2013-14, which begins July 1, to maintain the current level of educational programming. Most schools lost a portion of general purpose aid to education. The governor has said that such funding will remain flat for the upcoming year.
Ward said elimination of additional positions at RSU 10 will be very difficult, as will reducing building maintenance and supply purchases. He said more than 60 positions have been eliminated during the past four years.
Murphy believes that, although LePage is keeping education in the forefront, he and many others don’t realize how much is already happening in the schools.
Whether any of the governor’s proposals will actually go into effect won’t be known until the state Legislature acts on them.