Governor Paul LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen held a joint media conference today in the Cabinet Room at the State Capitol to discuss the results of a recent study released by Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance. Governor LePage and Commissioner Bowen explained these results and what they mean for Maine. They also unveiled a new initiative to revitalize Maine's educational system: the ABC plan.
The study, an analysis of 49 countries worldwide and 41 states in the U.S., measured improvements in academic test scores of 4th and 8th grade students from 1992 to 2011. In comparison to other states, Maine educational growth ranked 40th out of the 41 participating states. United States placed 25th in the world rankings.
"Commissioner Bowen and I have been trying to address this for two years now. We know Maine's educational system is lacking and we are here to share these results with you so that we can move in the right direction," said Governor LePage. "This is a call to action."
In response to the study's findings, Governor LePage and Commissioner Bowen introduced their ABC plan. ABC stands for Accountability, Best practices, and Choice. Commissioner Bowen discussed the three-point plan in detail, explaining accountability means creating a system that measures school performance and providing assistance to those that are struggling; best practices means looking at other state's and countries' educational systems that have yielded proven results; and choice means giving students more learning options, such as open-enrollment for schools.
"These efforts will be our core focus as we head into the fall and winter," said Commissioner Bowen. "We will be working with national experts from high-performing states on these initiatives, and we will be bringing a number of proposals to the legislature next session which we believe will get Maine's schools headed in the right direction."
Governor LePage reiterated that the status quo in Maine has been too heavily focused on administrative interests and procedures. This plan, he said, will return the central focus of Maine's education policy back on students. The Governor also supported teachers as a vital piece to his reform plan, stating that the current rigid certification requirements and curriculum structures are stifling teachers and potential teachers from sharing their wealth of knowledge.
"Educators should be able to teach and mentor based on what they know. If a person is a professional in the subject they want to teach, they should be able to do so regardless of whether or not they hold a teaching certificate," said Governor LePage.