Bicycle Coalition of Maine receives grant

AUGUSTA — The Alliance for Biking and Walking in Washington, D.C. has awarded an $18,000 grant to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine for its Community Spokes Program. The program will recruit and train rural citizen advocates to work for local improvements in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as well as state policies that encourage bicycling and walking.

“To successfully engage the many villages and small towns in Maine, we need trained advocates who are rooted in their own communities,” said Allison Vogt, the Bicycle Coalition’s executive director. “By increasing our grassroots muscle in local communities, we also will have a bigger impact on state policies.”

The Alliance, a coalition of more than 160 grassroots biking and walking advocacy organizations in North America, awarded four grants to projects throughout the United States. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine project will serve as a model for rural communities facing challenges with capacity, funding and infrastructure for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

MPUC opens investigation on need for smart grid operator

AUGUSTA — The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted this week to initiate an investigation to determine whether it is in the public interest to have one or more smart grid coordinators in the state.

In the Smart Grid Policy Act, a law passed in spring 2010, the Legislature directed the commission, upon petition, to open an adjudicatory proceeding to make this determination. The Smart Grid Act stated that it is the policy of the state to promote smart grid functions in order to improve overall efficiency and reliability of the electric system, better manage energy consumption, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The investigation into whether or not a smart grid operator is in the public interest is appropriate in order to fulfill the Legislature’s direction on the promotion of smart grid functions and move forward on aspects of the Stipulation for the MPRP,” stated Commission Chair Jack Cashman. “Opening this investigation right now is consistent with the commission’s commitment to transparency and fairness in addressing smart grid policy questions.”

Additionally, the commission issued an order in June approving the settlement agreement for Central Maine Power’s Maine Power Reliability Project, a proposed expansion of their transmission network consisting of upgrades and new construction of transmission lines and several substations throughout Maine. In the approved stipulation, provision was made for the Midcoast and Portland areas of the MPRP to be further evaluated for non-transmission alternatives as part of a pilot plan to be filed by CMP and grid solar (an intervenor in the MPRP case). As part of the pilot plan, CMP and Grid Solar agreed to include a proposal on the design, installation, ownership control, cost and cost recovery of a smart grid platform. The pilot plan will also recommend that Grid Solar be appointed the smart grid coordinator or operator.

Before considering any proposal for smart grid functions as part of the pilot plan and in order to analyze the smart grid issues as directed by the Legislature, the commission has now opened this proceeding to address threshold issues regarding smart grid coordinators. According to the stipulation approval, the commission will determine the following: whether the selection of a smart grid coordinator is in the public interest; if so, what the standards for the entity will be; and who will be selected to be the smart grid coordinator. The process of analyzing and deciding these questions is to be open and allow the participation of all stakeholders, including all potential smart grid providers.

For more information, visit the Virtual Case File on the Commission’s Web site (www.maine.gov/mpuc) and search for the Sept. 8 Notice of Investigation in the case (Docket Number 2010-267).

Core curriculum, rigorous course work lead to stronger scores among Maine students

AUGUSTA — An annual national report released Sept. 13 by the College Board shows Maine students’ scores on the SAT and the Advanced Placement test remained stable, while participation diversified.

“Completing a core curriculum that includes four years of English, and three or more years of math, science, and social science/history, has a dramatic positive impact on SAT scores,” said Education Commissioner Angela Faherty. “According to the report, the core curriculum results in an average 204 more points for students on the critical reading, mathematics, and writing tests combined. AP and other honors courses also increase student performance. It’s a significant boon to college readiness.”

“Maine’s participation is the highest in the nation and continues to remain stable, while representing a more diverse student population,” Faherty added.

The SAT is Maine’s statewide grade 11 assessment, leading to the high participation rate, as well as lower average scores since in other states typically only students planning to go on to post-secondary education take the exam. That, coupled with the higher use of the ACT test in some states, leads to SAT participation rates of between 2 percent and 75 percent in the other states.

The class of 2010 was the most diverse group of SAT takers in Maine’s history. Minority students accounted for 9.1 percent, up from 6.9 percent in 2005. Compared to five years ago, two-and-a-half times as many African-American students took the SAT; twice as many Asian American and Hispanic students took the test.

SAT scores by graduated seniors in Maine public schools were largely unchanged, with a one point increase in the critical reading score for public school students and a one point decrease, reflective of a national trend, in writing. Math scores remained unchanged.

Maine continues to perform well on AP subject exams, with 1.7 percent more students this year receiving scores of three or higher. A score of three or above is considered to predict success in a college level course in the subject tested. Many colleges and universities accept a three or above for college credit.

The Maine Department of Education will release detailed information about SAT scores by last year’s juniors, a different measure, in the coming weeks as part of its annual accountability reporting, which will also report on the Adequate Yearly Progress of Maine high schools.

Information on the College Board’s report, including data on Maine, can be found at: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/data-reports-research/sat/cb-seniors-2010