Sharing pride in our schools and our kids is a key part of what unites us as a community. We all feel a connection to the places where we were taught, or where we bring our children to learn. There are many components that contribute to a school, from the teachers, parents and community members to the students themselves. That’s why it’s hard to understand the value of a school grading system based largely on one metric, standardized scores, to assess the worth of our schools.

Those test scores can only tell part of the story of our schools. Across the state, we know that more than anything else, school grades correlate with the poverty or wealth of a community. Shaming schools with poor grades is not the way to fix the problem. We need to support programs, such as the Summer Food Service Program, that help the kids who are struggling. The Legislature successfully overrode Gov. LePage’s veto of a law that increases access to that program earlier this year. We also need to show our support by recognizing what our schools, our parents and our kids are doing right.

Our schools in Biddeford give us a lot of which to be proud. Just this winter, our Biddeford High School cheerleading squad took the Class A State and New England Champion-ships. Research has shown that participation in extracurricular activities is related to improved academic performance and lower dropout rates. We know that no matter what brings our kids out onto the field or stage, we are proud of our Tigers. 

It’s not just sports that demonstrate the worthiness of our schools, either. Recently, a Biddeford alumna was named a Fulbright Scholar. Elizabeth (Scott) Burroughs, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Montana State University, is proof that Biddeford graduates are capable of amazing accomplishments in the academic world. If our schools and our kids have the tools they need to learn and succeed, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

The Biddeford School Department also boasts a great tool for students to build successful careers. The Biddeford Regional Center of Technology is a resource for students who want to pursue good careers in automotive repair, construction, nursing, welding, law, medicine and many other rewarding and in-demand fields. Successful juniors and seniors can even earn college credits for free. That kind of innovative thinking and creative solutions for students doesn’t show up in test scores, but it is critically important for the future of our community and our state.

There are so many reasons to be proud of our schools and our children, and hardly any of them can be measured by a standardized test. Biddeford’s future will be bright if we can focus on building up our strengths and working together to move forward. Our kids deserve the opportunity to succeed, and we owe it to them to focus on what works.

— Sen. David E. Dutremble is a Democrat who represents the communities of Arundel, Biddeford, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. He lives in Biddeford with his wife and children. His column appears on the first Monday of each month.