WOOLWICH — What if they had told us they were going to nationalize education?

The Maine public has been silent on the proposed adoption of new state education standards. The state is about to dive into the largest transformation to public education, but few people are aware of that.

Maine is considering the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in November. These will replace our current state standards and change the testing from the state to the national level.

There is no doubt that our standards need improvement. They received a “C” grade from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. A close study of our National Assessment of Educational Progress testing data raises serious concerns. Maine’s largest demographic (white and English-speaking), ranks as follows in mathematics nationwide: fourth grade, 37th, and eighth grade, 38th.

Massachusetts is No. 1 nationally, regardless of demographics.

Do we need the common core standards for education reform in Maine? Local school boards and the state are free to improve upon our current state standards, without signing on to national standards. Why not just “cherry pick” the best A-rated standards from the Fordham report?

The adoption of the CCSS received news coverage in Massachusetts because many felt it was a mistake. Gov. Deval Patrick didn’t reappoint state board members who planned to vote against the adoption.

Some states have made it clear that they will not adopt the standards. Others have refused to apply for Race to the Top federal money. What do they know that we don’t?

The national test will ultimately drive the curriculum that ultimately gives us a national curriculum. There are some real questions about just what will be on these tests in math and language arts. Following right behind the math and English language arts standards are national science and history standards and tests.

Are we signing on to the science and history standards if we agree to the math and English CCSS?

The tests will be written in private, behind closed doors. The CCSS are about national testing that will be tied to your child’s Social Security number (if you volunteer your child’s number to the state). The national test will be the driver of education in Maine. These tests will be funded by federal dollars through Bill Gates grant money.

I am in favor of addressing Maine’s weak state standards, but I question why Mainers would want to commit to the CCSS until we know more. There was a rush to adopt the Common Core State Standards by other states because federal money was tied to them via the Race to the Top. Maine has no chance of winning any of this federal money, so why would we want to commit to this initiative without knowing more?

What will the long-term state cost of the transition to national standards be? How do the teachers feel about tying student test scores to teacher evaluations? Where do our local school boards stand on the CCSS and the reduction of local control?

The CCSS say that states are free to add an additional 15 percent to the CCSS, but they must agree to 100 percent of them first. If we have a national exam, how will this extra 15 percent be evaluated?

Before Maine adopts the Common Core State Standards, the public should ask more questions. This is the most drastic reform ever to hit Maine’s schools. Where’s the media coverage?

Members of the public have until this Friday to share their views on Maine’s adoption of these standards.

Concerned Mainers should contact state legislators, including the governor, to discuss this issue with them, and ask gubernatorial candidates about their position on the issue.

Public comments regarding the Common Core State Standards can be submitted by e-mail to the Department of Education at [email protected] or [email protected]

 

– Special to The Press Herald