Maine lost out in the federal Race to the Top education reform competition, but it will still move ahead with a key tenet of the reform it outlined in applying for up to $75 million.

The Maine Department of Education today will file an official notice indicating it plans to adopt Common Core academic standards.

The new set of standards, which were developed by two national groups and have already been adopted by more than 25 states, will replace Maine Learning Results if state legislators agree when they reconvene in January.

“There’s no change in our commitment to the adoption of the Common Core,” said David Connerty-Marin, a Department of Education spokesman.

Race to the Top competitors gained points for adopting Common Core standards or indicating they planned to adopt them by today.

Before Maine submitted its application for the money in June, legislators passed a bill in March allowing the state to adopt Common Core.


Maine is no longer facing today’s deadline, but it is sticking to the adoption schedule laid out in its Race to the Top application, Connerty-Marin said.

“We were not going to push (Common Core standards) simply for the sake of Race to the Top if they would not work for Maine,” Connerty-Marin said. “In fact, we believe they do work for Maine and they will strengthen our already strong standards.”

Common Core standards — which govern what skills students learn at each grade level in math and English — would replace Maine Learning Results, which took effect in 1997 and were revised in 2007.

Schools won’t start teaching to the Common Core standards until the 2012-13 school year, Connerty-Marin said. That should allow teachers and administrators time to become familiar with Common Core and adjust their curriculums, he said.

“I don’t think that we’ll see a lot of major differences,” said Christine Chamberlain, curriculum director for Hallowell-based Regional School Unit 2. “I think it might be easier to read, easier to navigate through for our teachers. Each time somebody does another iteration of standards, it tends to get better.”

A recent review of Common Core standards by a Washington, D.C.-based education policy think tank found that Common Core would be an improvement from most state standards currently on the books.


The Thomas B. Fordham Institute study awarded Maine’s current standards, Learning Results, a C in both English and math. The group gave the Common Core standards grades of B-plus in English and A-minus in math based on their rigor and clarity.

“We were very clear from the beginning that we would not support any watering down of standards for the sake of being part of this national set,” Connerty-Marin said. “We are convinced that not only would this not be a watering down, but it would strengthen our standards.”

The Fordham review points out that most of Maine’s current standards for English and math specify skills for grade ranges, rather than for individual grades.

For example, the review faults Maine standards for offering little detail to guide high school math instruction and for grouping all four years together.

When Maine standards do specify skills by grade level, it’s only for grades three through eight, the grades subject to standardized tests under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Common Core lays out specific skills for each grade from kindergarten through grade 12.


Two national groups — the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — solicited guidance from educational experts, teachers and administrators to develop the Common Core standards. The groups allowed the public to comment on a draft released in March.

“For the most part, the Common Core standards are more specific and less open to interpretation,” said Peter Thiboutot, assistant superintendent for schools in Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro.

They will, however, require that Maine shift to a new set of standardized tests, Thiboutot noted. Three multistate consortiums are currently competing for federal money to fund test development.

Controversy has erupted in some states over adopting the Common Core standards, but conflict has been largely absent in Maine since legislators passed the bill allowing the state to sign onto the national initiative.

At that point, though, legislators felt pressured to adopt a set of academic standards before they were finalized and before they had a chance to review them, said Rep. Edward Finch, D-Fairfield, the sole Education Committee member to vote against the bill.

“I’m sorry that we passed legislation in the hopes of getting this money,” he said, “when in fact, in my opinion, we had very little chance to begin with.”


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