Many citizens believe education is the critical component of democracy. Unfortunately political partisans have grasped to the goal of improving education for the future and overlaid the debate over national educational goals and states’ rights and local control.
The last session of the Maine state Legislature debated rigorously the merits of Common Core standards and proficiency-based graduation standards based on the established Learning Results Curriculum of public education. Public testimony convinced the Legislature to dismiss the Smarter Balance Assessment tests for evaluation and find better implementation. In addition to those who Julie McDonald-Smith indicts (“The Right View: Another education ‘reform’ targets Maine students”), the advocates of PBE include both houses of the Legislature, the Department of Education, and Gov. Paul LePage, who signed the law and vetoed a bill that would emphasize opt-out provisions for testing. Despite her pejorative statement about “Skinnerian ways,” a broad consensus of educators and business interests has recognized that critical thinking, decision making, self actualization, reading comprehension, self expression, and computational skills will be vital to the success of future citizens.
The local school board members that I know are interested in quality education for all students and recognize that individual attainment of skills and intellectual habits, coupled with love of learning, collaboration, and risk-taking confidence, are the necessary goals of public education. Scare tactics about regimentation and “worker bees” has nothing to do with what PBE proposes. Currently in Maine a commission of experienced educators and civic leaders are reviewing the goals and assessment standards expressed by Maine’s mandate to implement Proficiency Based Graduation Standards by 2018.