Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen is coming to Portland Wednesday to hear from the public about what changes they would like to see in the No Child Left Behind law. He should be prepared to hear a lot.

The law has been a disaster for Maine schools, derailing the implementation of state standards-based reforms while requiring time-consuming testing that gets in the way of teaching and learning.

To his credit, Bowen is no fan of NCLB, and he plans to present an application for a waiver from the federal law for Maine. The information that Bowen gathers at the Portland session — as well as one held in Bangor — should provide a strong basis for an assessment system that fits Maine and the unique challenges of trying to run a school system here.

NCLB has some strengths. It requires schools to track progress of students in a wide variety of cohorts, preventing schools from appearing to be successful by having a high achieving minority produce a decent average over all. But the inflexibility of its demands has produced a lot of critics.

Bowen is likely to hear complaints about the amount of testing that is done in Maine classrooms, but the type of testing is also a problem. Maine uses the SAT as a measure of student progress, even though that is not what the test was designed for.

And it tracks progress by comparing scores from one year to the next, even though a different group of students is sitting down and taking it. A better system would test the same students more than once and compare those scores.

Another measure that is off the mark is the high school dropout rate, which counts a troubled student who turns his life around and graduates in five years as a dropout. Schools that reach out to those students and work with them should be encouraged, not penalized.

Wednesday’s meeting, which will be held at Casco Bay High School, Room 250, will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It is an excellent opportunity for parents, teachers and students to speak up about what they see in their schools and what changes would improve them.