July 19, 2012

Gov. Paul LePage rips test scores in light of Harvard study ranking Maine low for student improvement

Associated Press

AUGUSTA (AP) -- A new Harvard study that gave Maine low marks for student test score improvement serves as a wake-up call that more must be done to improve public schools, Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a POW/MIA event on Wednesday at Blaine House in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

The study, "Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance," put Maine second from the bottom among states for test score improvement between 1992 and 2011.

LePage said he's calling on the education commissioner, school administrators and teacher unions to implement new educational practices focused on student learning.

"Clearly, the status quo in education is not working," LePage said.

Education officials said Maine students still have above-average test scores, but that there's been little improvement during years. In 1992, Maine had the third-highest test scores, but the state has since fallen to No. 12, LePage said.

The report, released by Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance, took a look at international and U.S. state trends in student achievement growth for fourth- and eighth-grade test score gains in math, reading and science.

Among countries, the U.S. ranked in the middle of a group of 49 nations that were included in the study.

Among states, Maine had the second-slowest rate of improvement between 1992 and 2011 among the 41 states included in the study, ahead of only Iowa. The states with the best test-score improvement were Maryland, Florida and Delaware.

The annual test score gains in Maine were less than half the national average and less than a third of the top-rated states.

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said it's worth looking at states that have shown rapid test-score improvement and see if Maine can learn from them.

"There are states in the study that are improving at two to three times the rate of states like Maine," Bowen said. "We need to find out why, and we need to move forward with an aggressive plan to improve student outcomes."

The study said that spending more money on education is not necessarily the answer to raising test scores.

Some states -- including Michigan, Indiana, Idaho, North Carolina, Colorado and Florida -- received "educational bang" for their additional education spending, the report said, but Maine and other states received little back in terms of improved test-score performance by increasing per-pupil spending.

Maine spent about $4,000 more per student per year in 2009 than in 1990, the report said.

"This report proves that more money does not equate to better results, and we must renew our focus through reform," LePage said. "We must support our teachers, improve their effectiveness and hold underperforming schools accountable."

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