A 6-year-old who started kindergarten in 1997, the year Maine adopted the Learning Results standards, will be entering her senior year of high school in a few weeks.

When she accepts her diploma, however, it still won’t be the long-promised certificate that proves she met standards in a wide array of subjects developed by the state’s best educational minds.

So, it’s with mixed feelings that we greet the news that Maine has signed on to adopt a new set of national standards in English and math known as the Common Core.

On the surface, we are encouraged that the state is moving to a new set of standards that have been rated above the Learning Results by a nonprofit school reform organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, because the Common Core provides more specific grade-by-grade benchmarks for students to meet as they move through their education.

But for those of us who remember the promises that came with the original Learning Results law, this development brings with it a dose of frustration.

Learning Results standards were not just limited to reading and math, but were also supposed to measure progress in history, science and the arts, which all experts agreed was vital to a complete education.

School districts collectively spent millions on professional development and on creating assessment tools that would help students show what they had learned.

But after 13 years of political jostling between educational stakeholders, and struggles to pay the price necessary to implement the program, next year’s diplomas will be no more standards-based than the ones handed out back in 1996.

School reform is not an overnight process, but it should work faster than this. A whole educational career should not have been allowed to pass from kindergarten to senior year before this program was fully implemented. Childhood goes by quickly, and students can’t sit around and wait for the grown-ups to get their act together.

With the election of a new governor this year, we are also likely entering a new era in school reform. Let’s hope we all have learned a lesson from the standards-based education struggles.


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