May 28, 2013

Another View: Bowen's education reform ideas come from out-of-state groups

Public schools need more support, not undermining, from the state's political leaders.


Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen's defense of the administration's school grading system in Maine Voices ("Attack on new school grading system fails to take facts into account," May 13) did, as he noted, cite facts concerning the administration's education accomplishments. These are a matter of law, although the facts cited aren't in any way supportive of the grading system.

In fact, the commissioner in no way defends or supports his grading system. There is the old saw of guilt by association, a strategy the commissioner reverses in an attempt to demonstrate goodness by association. Oddly, the accomplishments he cites occurred before the grading system was initiated, or to be generous, perhaps simultaneously.

And as far as his contention that the Press Herald presents a "demoralizing view" and also "evidently prefers" grade inflation or is proposing a "two-tier" system, I clearly don't read nor perceive information as does the commissioner.

It would be of value to the public if the commissioner would clearly identify the "whys and wherefores" of the grading system, focusing on the rationale and justification for it.

I did some research and the primary drive for such a system seems to come from the American Legislative Exchange Council, which, by the way, graded the state of Maine as a C-plus on its report card. So, conceptually and ideologically, Maine's administration is trying to improve its grade by initiating policies and programs consistent with a notably right-wing organization, one of whose goals is to privatize education.

What better way than to indicate that the schools are failing desperately? (Although the ALEC report card notes that the standards for the state get a B-plus for English and an A for mathematics.)

Perhaps the administration can provide more support to the public education system to support schools in reaching those standards.

Mark Schwartz is a resident of South Portland.


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