As an educator myself, I believe in the ability of all children to receive a free and equal education, regardless of income or geographic location. I believe that all public schools should offer the same level of high quality education, and the debate about school choice because a school may not have the same quality offerings as another should instead look at the real issue: why is it possible that some schools don’t have the same high quality offerings? I believe that all schools should have access to the same level of funding to make education possible. If a school is found to be in a region where economic resources are very limited, and where many families are in the low to moderate income bracket, those schools should have their funding targeted and strengthened. No student should be limited because of economic situations at home.
I don’t support a voucher system. In theory, school choice based on programs is a reasonable-enough assumption. I might choose to go to a school, as an adult, that offers programs in computer science, because that’s where my interest lies. However, I am an adult, who transports myself. Children from disadvantaged families or children from working families who cannot take time away from work would not have the same access to opportunity as children who have parents or adults available to transport them to other schools, since transportation is not provided- and I certainly wouldn’t support providing transportation through taxes. Therefore, this system does not take into account poverty, and how best to address targeted education needs to children in all economic brackets.
We also have to work hard to make sure that a standards-based system, if implemented, does not become just another way to register a number grade. For example, it is possible to create a rubric of standards that would be target learning goals, and assign each standard a numerical equivalent. Say you had four targets you were hitting, and you were assessing on a rubric of Exceeds, Meets, Partially Meets, Does Not Meet. Therefore you could give each of those a 1-4 score, you would have your four targets, and you would have a possible perfect score of 16, which can be compared and converted to one hundred percent system. So in the end, you’ve just created another numerical grading system.
We really have to have the discipline to make standards be about standards, not about the number grade. I would embrace this move wholeheartedly, because it would help me to move my students away from simply looking at the number grade to see if they passed, and instead really digging in and taking stock of strengths and weaknesses.
However, the main issue for me in education: literacy, programs, funding, attracting excellent teachers and supporting those teachers: that’s job one. If you can read, then you can learn anything. I believe that the best place to get to kids is from birth to age five. Unfortunately, by the time we public educators get those kids, we’ve missed many chances. We know through research that the developing brain of a child learns language and reading best from birth to age five. Therefore, we absolutely must strengthen our early childhood programs in this state in order to combat our high rate of illiteracy and low reading skills.
Our institutions of higher learning must also be supported and strengthened. This is simply an investment in the future for Maine’s economy. We have the people and the resources at our public universities, colleges, and community colleges to create innovation and solutions, and this work is going on right now. In order for our state to be competitive, we must support this work.
I believe that education at all levels is the key to the future, and any problem at all can be solved with proper education.