Playing Politics with Education
Knox County — (Please see the video of the governor’s press conference at the regular blog site: www.southendstories.blogspot.com)
Maine governor, Paul LePage caused a stir this summer when he outlined a remedial plan for Maine students which he will introduce to the legislature in the next session. In this video from online’s Huffington Post, the governor proposes his plan, “ABC,” Accountability, Best Practices, and School Choice.”
LePage’s statement which caused the most stir at a July press conference was, “I don’t care where you go in this country. If you come from Maine you’re looked down upon.” He continued, “Twenty years ago if you came from Maine, they couldn’t wait to get you into their school.”
He now believes that local school districts should pay for their graduates’ remedial courses in college. That would make it a double dip deal with parents being taxed for education twice, once in high school and once when their kids go to college. Aren’t college loans high enough without adding this burden to students and their parents?
It has been my experience, as a former teacher and supporter of our educational leaders, that every governor will take a stand on how to fix public education at some time during their administration. Politics always includes education in its platform whether it’s on the state or national level. You can count on education coming to the forefront in every upcoming election. I will not get involved in politics here especially since I cannot even remotely affect the outcome of any election in Maine, as I don’t live there.
However, I think he’s doing a disservice to Maine by belittling its residents in this way. If Maine wants to attract business to the state, this isn’t the way to do it.
Maine, in fact, is not the only state in trouble with the level of its students’ accomplishments. The New York Post reported that eight out of ten high school grads in 2011 were unable to do college work and were required to take remedial courses.
I don’t know for sure that the education level of our Maine students is really that low, but I do remember that in the 60s, when I was teaching, that any student coming to you from the South was automatically looked down upon. Maybe that wasn’t fair, but education in the South at that time was going through a racist turmoil. Has the resurgence of business prominence in the South now shifted education problems to the North where the economic woes are now larger than the rest of the country?
If so, please tell me why the southern people I ran into in the publishing industry here in Georgia couldn’t spell. I was forever correcting their grammar and spelling. Some of that may be the fault of technology, but that’s another story.
During the above press conference, LePage cited a Harvard study that places Maine 40th out of 41 participating states on its rate of improvement on standardized tests between 1992 and 2011.
Senator Justin Alfond, D, of Portland, a member of the Legislature’s Education Committee, says LePage is telling only half the story. He cited Maine’s high national ranking for fourth grade math test scores and eighth grade reading and writing test scores.
As for standardized tests, there has always been an ongoing debate as to how accurate they are in determining a student’s capability in a specific subject.
In a recent story by David Dunkle in the Courier, he discussed the fact that Rockland grammar schools are on report, so to speak, as far as the reading and math levels of its students. He suggests, and rightfully so I think, that we be concerned about other subjects besides reading and math. What happens to history, geography, and science? When’s the last time your student brought home an assignment that had to do with geography?
To be fair I must note that I’ve heard through the grapevine that the student population has declined in the Thomaston-Rockland area because parents move to towns with a better education system such as Camden. Is it now to be “Rockland by the dummies and Camden by the mensa society?”
True you need to know your math these days and you also need to know how to read. You won’t get far in this world without either one. But are we sacrificing other subjects so that we can “up” our scores in math and reading so we can get more money for education in our schools? Yes you need reading to study history or any other subject. You need math to pursue geography and other sciences. But how far should we go to ensure we get a well-rounded student who can function as a good citizen in our society?
So should we stand behind Governor LePage as he supposedly tries to “tell it like it is;” or do we trust the people who really know what’s happening in our schools; the people who were educated to teach our children; the people who take money out of their own pockets for their students’ needs; the people who are dedicated to their profession, to their students, and to their communities…namely the “Teacher.”
I will close with a recent article in the Courier under “Education Briefs.” The article lists the Dean’s List for UMaine-Machias, my alma mater. When I attended the school it was called Washington State Teachers College. These days UMM concentrates on environmental subjects. On this Dean’s List I see nine students from Rockland; one from Cushing; one from Lincolnville; one from Rockport; one from South Thomaston; and one from Tenants Harbor. In that same article, Michael Norman of South Thomaston, presumably educated at Rockland District High School; was named to the dean’s list at Rochester Institute of Technology. He studies computer science-information technology at that school.
RIT is an out-of-state school that did indeed accept a Maine student. I’m sure there are others. It would appear then that someone is doing something right when it comes to education in Maine and especially in Knox County. We need to recognize those Maine students who have excelled in their chosen fields. We also need to recognize the people who helped them get there. That’s my view for what it’s worth.
In the News Today, September 10, Courier Gazette online: Hope Elementary School just received a National Blue Ribbon School honor for being one of 269 schools in the nation recognized as being in the “Exemplary High Achieving Category.” Hope was one of two schools in Maine, the other being Solon Elementary School in central Maine.
Thanks for listening.