May 6, 2013

Letters to the editor: Readers decry 'simplistic' school ratings

(Continued from page 1)

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Hall Elementary School student Harrison Greene takes part in a rally Thursday in support of the Portland school, which received an F under a new state grading system. The grades don’t reflect all that Maine schools have to offer, readers say.

2013 File Photo/Gabe Souza

Rather than complain about education and make up a grading system based on a few measures, I wish Gov. LePage would visit schools like Portland High School, to see what amazing things they are doing with an incredibly diverse population.

Ellen Popenoe


While the governor's new school-ranking system fails for many reasons (many of which are well articulated in the May 2 editorial, "Our View: LePage's education policy earns him an F"), the rhetoric he used to explain it is also a failure.

In my junior English classes at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, I discuss the threat of rhetorical failures with my students.

Imprecise explanations, poorly supported assertions and ineffective analogies can undermine both an argument and its speaker's authority.

If the way in which you make your case is careless, I tell my students, then the class will doubt not only what you're saying but your reasons for saying it.

In defense of his ill-conceived effort to pit the students, teachers, administrators and citizens of Maine against one another via this ranking system, Gov. LePage explained that consistent school performance is problematic because "in a hospital setting, a flat line is not a good line."  

Were this phrase to appear in an argument written by one of my students -- and especially if it were coupled with the vague generalizations and clumsy verbs LePage also employed -- then I would insist that the writer work harder to use the tools of language to achieve his purpose.  

"How," I might ask, "is invoking the image of a dead heart supposed to help you inspire your audience?"

Either LePage does not understand that an effective analogy invokes the audience's understanding of one thing to help explain another, or his assumptions about and aspirations for Maine schools are not what he says they are.

As an English teacher in Maine schools, I am troubled by the governor's difficulties with language.  

My classroom door is open to him should he want to bring his rhetoric up to the standard I set for my high school juniors.

Meredith Cass


I agree with your grade of F for Gov. LePage's school grading system.

As the mother of two boys who attend Portland Public Schools, I will let my sons speak for our family:

Jackson, age 12 and a seventh-grader at King Middle School (graded C), said, "King got a C because we have 70 kids who are still learning English."

Nate, age 11 and a fifth-grader at Hall School (graded F), notes, "And there are about 50 kids at Hall learning English."

Our children attend these great schools, by our deliberate choice, because of the dedicated teachers and staff and because of the diverse student body that will prepare them for lives in this world.  

The best way for Gov. LePage to improve their educational experience would be for him to increase state funding to Portland Public Schools.

Margie Schoeller


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