For students, this is nothing new. At the end of every grading period, and depending on how hard they worked, how much ability they have and how effectively they have been taught, they get a grade.

For schools, it has not always been that way. Students succeed or fail, and teachers and administrators continue on, regardless of the results.

That attitude is changing if Maine schools are going to maintain their status when measured against other states, which have outpaced our school reform efforts.

Most educators would agree that all children can learn. And most would agree that teaching is a science as well as an art, and people can learn how to do it and how to do it better.

What you learn from a bad grade can be more helpful than what you learn from an A. It’s just what you do with it that matters.

Ten Maine school districts were given an opportunity to improve this year, when they were listed as persistantly lowest achieving schools in the state. These were schools that receive federal money to help low-income students, have demonstrated low reading and math scores for three consecutive years and have failed to meet average progress for the state.

Students, teachers, adminstrators, parents and school board members were understandably embarrassed to see themselves on the list. But it was also an opportunity.

At a time when schools around the state are cutting staff and professional development budgets, these schools were offered a share of $12 million in federal money if they were willing go through a school improvement process.

Seven of the schools, including Lake Region High School, featured in a May 16 Sunday Telegram story, took the feds up on the offer and embraced the challenge offered. That’s the reaction we expect our kids to have when they see a disappointing report card, and the schools taking part in the program deserve appreciation.

If it works, they will move off the list, and other schools will become the persistantly lowest achieving. We hope that they get the same opportunity to improve.

Change is hard, and no one likes to be told that they could do a better job. But sometimes a bad report card can be a big help.