Democrats Assail LePage Plan to Give Maine Schools Grades of A through F
Cousins, Christopher, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)
AUGUSTA, Maine -- Democrats voiced fierce opposition Thursday to an initiative by the LePage administration to give schools across Maine A-through-F letter grades based on their performance. However, the initiative does not require legislative approval and will be unveiled prior to the end of the school year.
LePage announced the idea during his State of the State Address in February. Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen discussed it with lawmakers on the Education Committee on Thursday, where he said the grades could be released within two weeks.
Democrats and the Maine School Management Association don't like the idea. Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, the Senate chair of the Education Committee, said the grades would embarrass schools rather than help them.
"I see this as a mechanism for shaming or threatening schools," she said in a prepared statement.
Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville, agreed. Though the method for assigning the letter grades has not been released by the Department of Education, Johnson said he was concerned that standardized tests don't cover enough subjects to be an accurate gauge. He also worried that the system would drive people away from towns with low-performing schools.
"You're going to tell people not to buy a house in that town," he said in the statement. "You're devaluing property."
Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said the idea came from Florida, which already has a school grading system in place. At an education summit organized by LePage last month, Florida educators said the grading system caused an uproar at first but resulted in parents and communities rallying around schools to improve them. Connerty-Marin rejected the notion that the purpose of the grading system was to embarrass schools.
"We'll give schools these labels and then the question is, 'What are you going to do to help them?'" he said. "We're not going to just simply label and run."
In a related initiative, LePage has proposed spending $3 million over the next two years to create the Office of School Accountability. …