Maine education head presents plan to remake standards in No Child Left Behind

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 23, 2012, at 9:40 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — No Child Left Behind is a broken set of regulations and standards, and Maine’s Department of Education is continuing its effort to patch it up, the head of the department said Thursday evening.

Commissioner Stephen Bowen visited Brewer Community School, where about 15 teachers, school administrators and residents heard an update on a draft proposal that seeks flexibility from the federal Department of Education in requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind.

“The problem we’re trying to fix here is we’ve been living under No Child Left Behind for 10 years and it doesn’t work,” Bowen said during the public forum.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, in part, outlines a series of performance benchmarks schools are required to reach with the intention of bringing all students to 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

Maine and most other states are lagging behind the benchmarks and the gap is widening as the requirements become more stringent. The schools are making progress and improving their proficiency scores, but the current system doesn’t recognize those steps forward if the schools are still below the bar, Bowen said.

The state plans to submit a waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 6.

The federal Department of Education requires that the state demonstrate it will implement college- and career-ready standards that graduates must attain, hold schools accountable for growth and provide customized support and interventions, and initiate measures to promote effective teaching methods and better administrative guidance.

Bowen said the state would do this through its adoption of Common Core State Standards in english language arts and math and phasing out New England Common Assessment Program and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) standardized testing in favor of more modern tests.

Also among the changes in Maine’s proposal is the goal that schools increase proficiency rates by 50 percent over six years, rather than bringing all students to 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Goals also would be set on an individual basis based on a school’s past performance, meaning that schools that start with lower scores wouldn’t be expected to attain the same proficiency numbers in six years as a better performing school.

Bowen said schools would be recognized for their improvements, rather than chastised for not reaching an unrealistic goal.

Four workgroups made up of teachers, principals, superintendents and Maine Department of Education staff members have been working on the waiver request since May.

To date, 35 other states have had their waiver requests approved by the U.S. Department of Education, according to Bowen.

For information about Maine’s flexibility application or to provide feedback, visit www.maine.gov/doe/accountability.

Bangor Daily news writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/23/education/department-of-education-head-presents-plans-to-fix-problems-of-no-child-left-behind/ printed on December 25, 2014