Education

Maine must restore local control over its schools

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The Common Core State Standards, since their adoption in 2011, have been an expensive and harmful experiment that threatens Maine’s educational competitiveness. Unfunded mandates for local schools districts, excessive testing requirements, developmentally inappropriate material, and dubious data collection practices underscore how Common Core has caused, and will continue to cause, problems for Maine’s schools, teachers, and students.

This session, Rep. William Tuell, R-East Machias, introduced LD 1578, a bill that would repeal Common Core in Maine and adopt new learning standards for our students.

In the 1990s, at a time when schools used a much more localized and flexible set of learning standards, Maine reported the best student achievement scores in the country, exceeding the results of more demographically homogeneous and well-financed states. By any measure, our public K-12 education system ranked among the best in the nation. Since the implementation of the Common Core standards, Maine’s ranking on student achievement has fallen.

Local control of public school curriculum and instruction has historically driven innovation and reform in education. A one-size- fits-all, centrally controlled set of standards like Common Core hinders efforts to develop academically rigorous curricula, assessments, and standards that meet the unique challenges Maine faces. Mainers want control over their local schools and a stake in the education their child receives. They do not want teachers and school administrators constantly scrambling to respond to the new edicts issued from Augusta or Washington D.C.

While proponents of Common Core often claim that local school districts are still free to choose their curriculum, the truth is that Common Core severely limits local flexibility regarding curriculum selection.
Furthermore, state and local leaders cannot change Common Core content, and there is no evidence that national standards lead to higher academic results.

Curricula taught in the classroom must tie back directly to Common Core Standards, meaning schools and teachers do not have the freedom or choice proponents claim they have regarding learning materials. Purchasing new textbooks and materials to include these standards has been a costly endeavor for districts across the state.

Common Core also represents a lowering of academic standards. Common Core math standards fail to meet the content targets recommended by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, the standards of leading states and our international competitors. They exclude certain algebra and geometry content that is currently a prerequisite at almost every four-year state college, essentially redefining college readiness to mean readiness for a non-selective community college.

In English Language Arts, Common Core standards are also inadequate. Common Core demands that English teachers spend more than 50 percent of their reading instructional time on informational texts in a variety of subject areas, reducing the emphasis on literature and writing. This requirement alone makes it difficult for English teachers to construct a coherent literature curriculum in grades 6-12.

Opponents of LD 1578 claim that establishing new education standards for our students would be too tedious and expensive, however the Common Core system has led to more spending and worse educational results.

Repealing Common Core would put Maine on the path to better student achievement, halted implementation costs, and more local control over educational decisions.

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Prior to his tenure at MHPC, Matt spent eight years working in national politics in Washington, D.C., most recently as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association. A Hampden native, Matt is a nationally recognized political strategist and communicator.

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