September 22, 2019
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Comments for: Portland, Sanford schools awarded $9M in grants; critics say money comes with baggage

PORTLAND, Maine — Public school districts in Portland and Sanford have been awarded a total of nearly $9 million in grant money to implement what educators are calling “student centered” educational approaches, state officials announced Tuesday. According to a Maine Department of Education announcement, Nellie Mae… Read More
  • Anonymous

    Anna Collins doesn’t know what she’s talking about. It’s too bad the progressive thinkers with contemporary training in brain science and learning don’t get as much press as the cranks. I guess that teachers would have to be consulted then and we all know that won’t happen. Standards based learning has been around for 30 years and shown to be successful. Students will not be guinea pigs, they will be beneficiaries.

    • IF personal attacks is any way to disprove Anna Collins, you’ve FAILED miserably.  I’d suggest next time offering up a logical argument with facts.  BRADFORDpov just schooled YOU!

      • Anonymous

         I don’t see any attack on Collins here, but rather the attitude toward proficiency based learning. I may be wrong since I’m a victim of the Maine public school system, but I do believe that what you ACTUALLY know in education used to matter. That is one of the reason’s why more people used to drop out in 8th grade. Not encouraging dropping out of course, but the education system was certainly more realistic and honest back then.

  • Anonymous

    I have searched high and low to find any proof that the standards based, proficiency based, student centered, or RISC education model (they are all the same) produces higher test scores.  I can not find any proof of that.  Do your own search using 
    The plan they want to implement is  “Reinventing Schools Coalition” that began in 2003  in Alaska.  Former Education Commissioner Susan Gendron convinced Gov. Baldacci to pilot it here in Maine at a cost of $1.6M.  Check out the test scores for the districts using it in the Alaskan Public Schools, well below state averages while the cost per student in these districts is double the state average.
    The one school district in Colorado using it, Adams 50, show test results well below state averages and parents are pulling their kids out of the district in large numbers.
    Commissioner Bowen wants to force this method on us statewide, including our newly established Charter Schools.  What about School Choice and Local Control issues?  
    If they are so sure this method works, the legislature should amend LD 1422 to include a provision to require school districts pay for any remedial classes needed after graduation.

    • Anonymous

      Homeschoolers have been using this approach to education for thirty years and it seems to be working for them.

      • Anonymous

        Home schooled students often have a 1:1 student – teacher ratio.  This won’t happen in
        public schools (although that ratio in Adams 50 was 1:8).  To allow all students to move at their own pace, computers must take over much of the instruction. Direct teacher
        instruction will likely be reduced.  Most (but not all) home schooled students are taught by direct teacher (parent) instruction.

        • Anonymous

          There are many curriculum’s (paper/pencil) used around the world that are constructed in such a way that self-directed students can work at their own pace. Computers are definitely helpful but not entirely necessary for child-led, student-centered education. 

        • Anonymous

          Not entirely true, since many home schooled curricula are 
          computer paced. Students have lessons and log into distant 
          computers which track and test their progress or lack thereof.

          Self-paced but to a point.

          A 9th grader commenting on standard’s based curriculum?  wow!

      • Anonymous

        Actually I have two boys ages 17 and 12. I home schooled both of them for for a few years. At no time were they working on the same material or anything close. Although homeschoolers have the ability to work at a slower pace than public schools, I doubt that many do. I suspect they are moving along at least one year ahead. If your point is that kids in public schools who are quick learners should be allowed to move at a faster pace, I agree. The question is how to do it. Maine just adopted the Common Core State Standards that require students to be proficient in Grade by Grade Standards, K-12 as judged by(soon to come)National Assessments. The standards based system (RISC) eliminates all grades. How do these two philosophies mesh? The US Department of Education and the State Department of Education should STOP throwing all these new fads at us and let parents and local school boards work on improving our schools. Allow teachers to instill creativity into students instead of just test preparation. Kids learn from each other during class discussions. Removing all the high achievers from the class will not encourage others to expand their thoughts. Comparing homeschool methods to standards based education in public schools where you has a one on one compared to 20 to 1 seems like a reach to me.

        • Anonymous

          I was merely commenting that a child-led, student centered approach to education can work. Allowing a student to work at their own pace or an excelled pace also works.

          It is not the job of bright students to educate other students. It is up to the teachers to do that. Holding back above average students merely so that they can contribute to a class discussion to enrich those less academically gifted seems very unfair, and is part of the reason why we are falling so behind in education compared to the rest of the world. 

          I envision schools where there are no grade levels, where students are not grouped according to age, but according to intellectual development in a particular subject. I envision schools without standardized testing but instead student portfolios. Some students may excel in math, but be average or below average in reading, so they may be in an advanced math class with older students, but in a lower level English class with younger students. 

          Part of the problem with our inept education system is that we are so fixated on keeping same-age students together regardless of whether we are fully meeting their academic needs. We are so focused on making sure all of  our students and parents have a “feel good” experience that we are not approaching education in a rational way, but in a everyone feel good way.

          Some students need a slowed down pace to grasp basic academic content, but that doesn’t mean that they will always stay at that pace or in that group. For some students being pushed through the system now, it would be better to have them grouped with students with similar abilities working together. The slowed pace may help them finally master academic skills like reading, writing or math. Once the foundation is laid and they have mastered those skills, they may very quickly catch up with those students who have grasped these things sooner. 

          No where else in life do we group people by age and keep them confined in that grouping even though some are more or less advanced. Having students interact with varied aged students more resembles the American work force. We don’t hold someone back from a promotion because we want them to stay with people of the same age even though they have the skills to move forward.  

          • Anonymous

            Okay, let’s see what the kids think of it. The following was written by a 9th grader attending a Maine High School using the standards based method.
            1. I’m a 15 year old living in Maine, currently attending a high school that runs on a standard based grading system.

            2. I have had debates and discussions with everyone from my teachers, to other students, to my own father (as mentioned before). It seems that while most of the adults and teachers think this system is the perfect solution to the faults of the old system, almost every one of the students disagree heartily.

            3. After spending almost 2 years on a standards based grading system, I can tell anyone 100% surely that I believe the new system creates a lot more problems than it fixes.

            4. With standards, students have as many chances as they need to complete the needed information correctly. (Yes, this includes tests, projects, everything).

            5. In reality: While it might, and sometimes does, work the way it was hoped, it also fails a lot. A student might pass in a project, get several points of information wrong, and then get the project passed back to them. The wrong information is going to be clearly pointed out to them, in which case they’ll quickly look up the correct information, jot it down, and pass it back for a higher grade.
            It also means thats grades overall lose a lot of their meaning. A good student can get a 3.5 on a test the first time around, because they studied, while a not so good student can get a 3.5 their third time around, because of all the help they received. The previous grades don’t show up on the report cards. All that is shown is that they both received 3.5s on that test.

            6. With standards, students have all the time they need to complete assignments. (Again, this includes everything.) “Due dates” are assigned, but really have no meaning. “Points” do not exist, and therefore none can be taken off for an assignment passed in late. The student will be graded exactly the same as a student who passed theirs in on time.
            In theory: …Actually, I’m not sure what the point of this is. There seems to be no academic upside.

            7. In reality: It just teaches bad habits. Teachers get increasingly frustrated when students don’t pass in projects on time, but really, why should we? You (being teachers or adults) can argue all you want (it builds good habits of being on time with things, etc), but to a lazy high school student, all they’re going to hear is that there is no repercussion for passing in something a month late.

            There is a lot more Common Sense analysis from this 9th grader if you read the whole post. 

          • Anonymous

            The Common Core which is being adopted in place of the Maine Learning Results focuses on a standards’ based method of teaching and evaluation. Education standards are moving toward a conceptual understanding rather than the traditional grading system which involved a great deal of rote memorization. 

            This young man is obviously one that needs grades as validation. That doesn’t mean that it is the best approach for all students. Many college professors actually allow for  corrections of a paper or project that can then be resubmitted for a better grade. Often students learn more by going back and redoing something then by passing it in once and getting a grade. It is often the correction of inaccuracies that will provide a student the opportunity to make the connections not previously made.

            The bottom line is that education is about the learning process and not about the grading system that we have held for so long. The focus should be on learning new concepts and skills and not so much on grades.

          • Anonymous

            You stated the Common Core Standards are focused on the standards based model? I thought they were based on international best practices. Last I checked all the countries that do better than the US on international tests DON’T use a standards based education system. Here in the US, standards based education is only currently in a handful of states and I have YET to see any PROOF of success, with improved test scores that SBE works. As a matter of fact there are no PUBLIC schools in any state that can show results above state averages. There are a couple of Magnet and Charter Schools that have higher scores but how they select students comes into play. Are they cherry picking? I’m more concerned with public schools since that is where my children and grandchildren are going to go to school.

          • Exactly.  The Common Core Standards aren’t even the best standards in the country.  The best standards in CA and Mass. were abandoned to get the race to the top money.  They sold out their students just to get $$$$.  
            These are not internationally benchmarked standards.  They still put our kids 2 years behind the top performing countries.

            Sadly the Maine DOE peddles snake oil telling you how wonderful it is if you just swallow.

          • What we see is kids blowing off the first test because they know they will get  a second one.  They get to see the questions on the first test and feel they have an advantage to blowing off the first one.  
            DOES any of these so called reformers know how teens operate?  Because it seems to me as if they are clueless.
            It is amazing how you sell this snake oil to parents.  It’s not like we do not deal with teenagers!!
            Keep telling us how amazing this is all going to work.  The problem is, we SEE how it works and it’s a joke.
            You reward lazy behavior.  Now how’s that going to work in the real world?

      • HUH?  Not the home-schoolers I know.  They use a traditional approach.  Check out Seton Home-Schooling, one of the best and one of the widely used program.  None of this nonsense is forced on home-schoolers and if they find it’s not working, they can certainly change things up immediately.  That’s how it works without mandates and the Govt. thinking they know better than the parents and teachers.

        • Anonymous

          There are as many approaches to homeschooling as their are families homeschooling. There are hundreds of homeschool curriculums out there. Seton is one homeschooling company that some homeschoolers use, some using the curriculum exclusively and some using bits and pieces in an eclectic fashion. There are many who use no curriculum at all. 

          I’m not advocating more mandates. I’m advocating child-led or student-centered education. Some refer to it as unschooling. I am merely commenting that a student-centered approach to education works. 

          I am against weighing teachers down by these standards that are constantly being changed or modified without showing that having these standards improve the educational process. I believe the teachers and local administrators should have control over their educational system.

          I am 100% against standardized testing of any sort. Follow the money trail and you will find that the testing companies and textbook companies are one in the same and they both pad the pockets of those who are making these crucial decisions in education so that we are trapped in a never ending cycle involving testing, new textbooks, constantly changing standards and inept reforms. There are millions of dollars being made by textbook/testing companies while our elected officials head off with their payment to play a round of golf.

          • Student centered in a class of 25 kids??  You say this works, so I’m assuming you have independent studies that show this works?  Studies that will definitively show gains in academic knowledge?  
            I remember when everyone said NCLB would work too.

          • Anonymous

            Right now education is standardized testing/textbook company and politician-centered. We are holding on to an educational system that has stayed relatively the same for over 100 years. Our current approach is not working. Continuing to do things the way that we have been doing them is not going to remedy the situation. Thinking outside the box, looking at how homeschoolers, private schools, charter schools, and foreign schools are outperforming our public educated students is the key to true reform. 

            My mother went to a one room schoolhouse until high school. There were dozens of students at multiple levels being taught by one teacher, yet she eventually went on to be the Valedictorian of her high school class. Her teachers had no standards, no standardized tests and few textbooks, yet they were more academically equipped then our students today.

  • Anonymous

    In a true proficiency based system, all students move through the standards at their own
    pace.  No school in Maine has fully implemented this part of the RISC program, but LD 1422 will take care of that.  Why not wait to see how the “full implementation” of this radical reform goes before mandating it district-wide or state-wide?  Eventually, schools adopting this model will do away with grade levels (3rd grade, 4th grade, etc.).  There are no norm referenced tests (students aren’t compared against each other – no competition between students).  Schools will be accountable for moving students forward on the standards list, but students can take as long as they need to “meet the standards.”  Parents will need to monitor “pace” instead of
    “grades.”  A 16 year old boy might be working on the same standard as a 12 year old girl.  Will they be instructed together? Are parents comfortable with this?  There are better ways to benefit education and keep costs down than a grant that mandates ALL students in Portland to be
    educated using this essentially unproven method.  A representative from the DOE stated that he needs 12 years for “proof of success” of this model.  Are parents OK with this?  Are School Boards OK with this?   Meanwhile, the DOE will open up school choice to schools that
    will be exempt from this model, but parents will have to win a lottery to get their child into one of these schools.  Portland should be allowed to continue to instruct the majority of its students traditionally.  If they want, they can use standards-based education only with those students who have difficulty with traditional education (perhaps a “school within a school” model).  Otherwise, they will lose students to school choice if the independent schools are not mandated to use this method.  Or, perhaps the DOE will mandate that ALL schools accepting students through school choice must also use this method.  Independent schools should look ahead to make sure that mandates like this aren’t part of the school choice bill….

    If parents want to figure out what is going to happen next in their district, they need to start attending the meetings for the newly formed “Educate Maine.” Non-profits like this are driving education policy in the state, not the local boards.  Often, the local school boards are just there to rubber stamp a program that has been set in place by these organizations.  Parents are completely
    shut out of the process.   Thanks to school consolidation, these organizations have been able to quickly take control of Maine schools.

    Finally, Dr. Morse is leaving in June.  Where is he

  • Anonymous

    I guarantee they’ll spend far more than the 9 million meeting the mandates of another educational boondoggle.

  • Anonymous

    Why even have an elected school board when the super. can align with a foundation.. “Foundation President Nicholas Donohue said in a statement that Portland and Sanford were chosen for the cash infusions because the districts are already “most aligned with our theory of change.”

    I wonder if the School Board even knew about the implications of the grant, let alone signed off on it?

    • Anonymous

      The danger with accepting money from these private foundations is that you have unelected people making policy changes.  These foundations are taking advantage of cash-strapped schools who will do just about anything for much needed cash.  On the surface, foundations like this one, and others like the Gates Foundation look benign, but what happens is money talks.  These foundations have deep pockets, and with their lavish grants, they can shape our children’s education any way THEY see fit, and because they are not elected, there is no way to hold them accountable when things go awry.  Any public school district applying for and receiving these types of grants should be wary, because the strings attached may cause more harm than good, and may be quite difficult to unravel.

      • Anonymous

        TSM Designs – here is some info on Nellie Mae from a July 2011 Newsletter: 

         jULY 2011

        A Message from the Executive Director:  
          I hope this newsletter finds you enjoying Maine’s warm summer days. This
        month’s Coalition Communications newsletter includes Coalition updates, as well
        as state, regional and national education news.  Many of you may have
        already heard the great news–the Nellie Mae Education Foundation recently
        approved $50,000 in additional funding for our policy work and the planning for
        a Legislative Retreat to be held in early November.  Thanks to Yellow for
        his leadership and persistence in navigating the conversations with Nellie Mae.
        Also, Henry Bourgeois and Duke Albanese were incredibly helpful with their
        insight and willingness to answer my (many!) questions.  While we have
        secured this initial funding, we are also wrapping up our proposal for Nellie
        Mae’s Student-Centered Learning: Building a Supportive State Policy Environment
        grant program. This new grant is focused on four policy areas: 1) State
        accountability systems, 2) High school progression and graduation requirements,
        3) State requirements for teacher preparation and certification, and 4) State
        funding formulas. Our proposal focuses on the second policy area and highlights
        our legislative work with LD 1422, specifically our standards-based diploma and
        individualized student learning plans. Speaking of student-centered learning,
        I’m pleased to report that MCEE has purchased 200 copies of Inevitable, Mass
        Customization of Education by Bea McGarvey and Chuck Schwahn.  (Bea is a
        consultant for Mr. Marzano (Re-Inventing Schools Coalition – RISC) and is a
        former Director of Curriculum in the Portland school system. She also gave us a
        great discount!) Inevitable will be distributed by the Maine Department of
        Education to every superintendent in Maine.  This book is a roadmap for
        standards based education/student centered learning and is being used by DOE as
        they develop a strategic plan for education in Maine. We ordered a few extras
        so let us know if you want a copy.   Finally, we have begun conversations
        with the Compact for Higher Education about enhancing our collaboration. Three
        Board members from each organization, along with both Executive Directors, have
        formed a working group to discuss shared values, ideas for collaboration, and
        next steps.  As we move ahead, we will keep you informed of the progress.
           As always, feel free to share your comments, suggestions, and/or
        notable articles or news with us.  Enjoy this beautiful Maine summer.

        • Anonymous

          Quite interesting…I can see so many potential conflicts of interest already.   Did you notice the title of the book that was purchased?  _Inevitable, Mass Customization of Education_  authored by Bea McGarvey and Schwahn…McGarvey “is a former Director of Curriculum in the Portland school system.” 

      • Anonymous

        Nellie Mae education foundation was founded by the for
        profit Nellie Mae student loan company. The initial endowment was probably 300
        to 400 million. The tax returns of Nellie Mae Education Foundation for past
        three years are available on their website and show Bill and Melinda Gates
        Foundation giving them $500,000 to about 2 million a year. The foundation has
        its money invested all over the place, including numerous off shore places such
        as Cayman Islands. The tax returns also show 5 million dollar investment into
        genetically modified forestry….a potential competitor to Maine pulp industry.
        So, the money comes from student loan income, off shore investments, other
        investments, as well as controversial genetically modified forestry

        • Anonymous

          I had a sneaking suspicion the Gates Foundation was involved.  Genetically modified forestry…hmmm, this might cause a bit of an uproar, maybe even more than Roxanne Quimby, lol.   Nice find, 3MaineMom!

      • Anonymous

         If there ever was a district to try changing the way kids are educated, Portland is a good choice.  Lots of challenges and their graduation numbers and outcomes are going the wrong way.  Nellie Mae and other grantors want to help but throwing money at the current way of delivering education is not the answer.  Kudos to them for tryiong to effect change and to Portlan’s Board for letting someone hlpe or at least try to help.  If left to themselves most towns will continue the same old, same old.  Not gonna work in the 21st century economy.  Ms. Collins is all over the place and appears to thionk there is some plot to overthrow status quo.  Nellie Mae is trying to help and is not aligned with a movement out of Augusta.

        • Anonymous

          This is what 3MaineMom found:

          “Nellie Mae education foundation was founded by the for
          profit Nellie Mae student loan company. The initial endowment was probably 300
          to 400 million. The tax returns of Nellie Mae Education Foundation for past
          three years are available on their website and show Bill and Melinda Gates
          Foundation giving them $500,000 to about 2 million a year. The foundation has
          its money invested all over the place, including numerous off shore places such
          as Cayman Islands. The tax returns also show 5 million dollar investment into
          genetically modified forestry….a potential competitor to Maine pulp industry.
          So, the money comes from student loan income, off shore investments, other
          investments, as well as controversial genetically modified forestry

          So yes, they are involved with outside interests, including the Gates Foundation, just as I suspected. 

          • Anonymous

             Good intel, but that is what foundations do – they try to grow their money to stretch it out  for more grantees.  Gates, Lumina, Nellie Mae, Noyces – all have people emplyed to find the best place to leagally park their dough for it to grow.  Without money from foundations, maine would be in trouble.  Geneticall modified forestry being a threat to Maine is a bit of a stretch.  The biggest competitor to our pulp and paper industry is likely China – a whole other ball of wax.

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to know where Nellie Mae gets its money? I’ve just spent the last hour trying to find out who sits on the board of directors of Nellie Mae and I couldn’t find anything…

  • Anonymous

    While we are on this subject, try to wrap your mind around these stats:
    This appeared in the Maricopa Monitor in Arizona.  The cost per student for K-12 in Maine is about $1000.00 more than Arizona so this is comparable.
    Maricopa Monitor  

    The department has a FY-2012 budget of $45.3 billion (not including $22.8 billion for Pell Grants). There are 55.4 million K-12 students attending school this year nationwide. If you eliminate the Department of Education and divide its budget by the number of children enrolled, that comes out to just over $83,000 per student. Remember, currently we spend only $8,882 per student. Washington gets $83,000/student; they give us $882 back. Not a good rate of return!  

    • Anonymous

         I agree with BradfordPOV. The spending is out of control and unproven methods are used at an incredible cost instead of using proven methods from excellent sensible teaxtbooks.Maine is one of the States, where Everyday Math, Trailbrazers and other TEC-developed fuzzy-mathematics methods spread like the worse epidemic. I wonder if anybody knows why? – Here is the answer: There is an organization, whose workers were paid to visoit the schools and tell to every school board and every principoal, that the only mathemathics that is aligned with the Maine Learning Results is the Everyday Math and the like.Hearing this, every school started to use the fuzzy mathematics and by this time the most hated subject in the schools is Mathematics. – Of course, the organization that spread this information is not telling the truth, but their organization is living on the profit of the four main textbook bpublishing companies and the testing organizations.How many times will this be done to our children and to our schools before the parents finally would start to get to action?   Do you know that the Great Schools with their unproven experiments are risking the future of your children and they desproy our economy? Do you know, that families with children would not move into states or to communities where this experiemnt of education is going on?
      It is not the best way to help the disadvantages.  Direct instruction to the disadvantaged students is the way to go.  Why spend money on radical restructuring of the system when you can spend the money where it matters most — better teachers, better curriculum, direct instruction, simple, internationally winning curriculum – this is what we all wantfor our children.If parents would realize, that simple, on-the – target textbook are SOOOOOOOOO much better, SOOOOO much more successful- we could follow the leader nations in education. 
      Thank you!
      Thank you!

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