July 18, 2012

LePage: Money not the key for schools

A study shows Maine has fallen to No. 12 in U.S. test scores, while test-score improvement is at No. 49.

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA – A new Harvard study that gave Maine low marks for student test score improvement serves as a wake-up call that more must be done to improve public schools, Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday.

The study, "Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance," put Maine second from the bottom among states for test score improvement between 1992 and 2011.

LePage said he's calling on the education commissioner, administrators and teacher unions to implement new educational practices focused on student learning. "Clearly, the status quo in education is not working," Le- Page said.

Education officials said Maine students still have above-average test scores, but that there's been little improvement during the years. In 1992, Maine had the third-highest test scores, but the state has since fallen to No. 12, LePage said.

The report, released by Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance, took a look at international and U.S. state trends in student achievement growth for fourth- and eighth-grade test score gains in math, reading and science.

Among countries, the U.S. ranked in the middle of a group of 49 nations.

Among states, Maine had the second-slowest rate of improvement between 1992 and 2011 among the 41 states included in the study, only ahead of Iowa. The states with the best test-score improvement were Maryland, Florida and Delaware.

The annual test score gains in Maine were less than half the national average and less than a third of the top-rated states.

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said it's worth looking at states with rapid test-score improvement to see if Maine can learn from them.

"There are states in the study that are improving at two to three times the rate of states like Maine," Bowen said. "We need to find out why, and we need to move forward with an aggressive plan to improve student outcomes."

The study said that spending more money on education is not necessarily the answer to raising test scores.

The report said Maine and other states received little back in terms of improved test-score performance by increasing per-pupil spending.

Maine spent about $4,000 more per student per year in 2009 than in 1990, the report said.

"This report proves that more money does not equate to better results, and we must renew our focus through reform," LePage said. "We must support our teachers, improve their effectiveness and hold underperforming schools accountable."

 

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