Saturday, December 7, 2013
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This June 2008 file photo shows the Portland High School graduation at Merrill Auditorium at City Hall in Portland. Maine's high school graduation rate ranks 10th in the nation, according to the first data released by the U.S. Department of Education that uses the same standard for all states.
Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer
• Maine's graduation rate increased for the third straight year in 2011 (80.4 in 2009 and 82.8 in 2010).
• Among other New England states, Vermont (87) and New Hampshire (86) ranked higher than Maine, while Massachusetts (83), Connecticut (83) and Rhode Island (77) were lower.
• The District of Columbia had the lowest graduation rate in the country at 59 percent.
Many education initiatives are under way in Maine, he said, noting efforts to quantify teachers' evaluations and adopt Common Core standards of learning.
"What I hope isn't forgotten is that it's relationships with the kids in the classroom and the school that are probably the most important factor to getting kids off the starting line," Hall said.
The U.S. Department of Education, which issued the data this week, has not calculated a national graduation rate, since three states have been granted extensions to compile complete results.
"The fact that we're all using the same system is very good," said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Maine Department of Education.
"There's been a tremendous amount of effort, in the state and nationally, to be able to use data better. This is an important part of that," he said. "We're able to remove the uncertainty of (earlier) data."
It could also de-politicize the debate over the best way to improve public education.
Gov. Paul LePage angered educators this month when he told an audience at York County Community College that Maine's public schools aren't doing a good job of educating students. Even at the state's best high schools, he said, only about 60 percent of the students are rated proficient in English and math.
The graduation rate is one measurement used under the federal No Child Left Behind law to determine whether a school is making adequate yearly progress.
Connerty-Marin said the state wants to use such data "not for the purpose of saying this district is good and this one is bad, but to say, 'Let's find five districts like our district and see what they're doing with high school dropouts because we have an issue with that.'"
Even with the 84 percent graduation rate, one-sixth of Maine students are not graduating from high school, he noted.
"We need to demand more rigor. It points to the need for student-based learning, and the need for multiple pathways, since students don't all learn the same way, and part of that would be school choice," he said, referring to several of the LePage administration's educational priorities.
Staff Writer Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at: