LEWISTON – The state’s new plan for improving literacy revolves around an expansive definition of literacy skills and depends on the collaboration of a broad spectrum of government agencies, education providers and community organizations.

The initiative, Literacy for ME, calls for communities to develop their own plans to improve the literacy of their residents from birth to adulthood. Some work will be done at the state level, including coordination among the departments of Education, Labor, Corrections, and Health and Human Services.

Launching the initative at the Lewiston Public Library on Tuesday, Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said communities are likely to receive little if any financial support from the state, and efforts can’t fall entirely on public schools, which are “maxed out.”

He said early-childhood education providers, public schools, adult education programs, higher education institutions, charitable foundations and other entities often operate in silos and must work together to figure out where gaps exist and how to fill them.

“I don’t see this as a new, extra thing,” Bowen said. “You can see all kinds of great initiatives going on all over the place. It’s not about creating something new. It’s about taking what we’re doing and building it into a coherent sort of vision.”

The evidence that Maine needs to raise literacy levels comes from a variety of sources, Department of Education Specialist Lee Anne Larsen said in an interview.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Maine students in fourth and eighth grades scored lower in reading in 2011 than in 2007. In writing, only 41 percent of fifth-graders and 51 percent of eighth-graders rated “proficient” or above on the latest New England Common Assessment Program tests.

Some Maine college students need remedial education because they lack the skills they need for entry-level courses, and Larsen said many employers report not being able to find workers who can process technical information and communicate effectively.

 

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

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