Special Report
Education

Maine

January 04, 2005 3 min read
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Standards and Accountability: A lack of clear and specific standards in core subjects and grade levels drags down Maine’s grade in this section.

Maine has clear and specific standards in all grade spans for science only, based on ratings by the American Federation of Teachers. English standards are clear and specific for middle and high schools. Mathematics standards are clear and specific solely for elementary schools. Social studies/history standards are not clear and specific for any grade span.

Maine gives tests based on its standards in all grade spans in English, math, and science. But it has no standards-based exams in social studies/history. The state uses a variety of test items to assess students. It is one of 19 states that include multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions on their exams for every grade span in English and in other subjects.

The state uses test results to hold schools accountable. Student-achievement data are reported annually on school report cards, and the state rates schools based partly on test results. But Maine does not provide help or impose sanctions for both Title I and non-Title I schools consistently rated as low-performing or failing. The state does not provide monetary rewards to high-performing or improving schools.

Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Maine gets the same grade it received last year for its efforts to improve teacher quality, again ranking in the bottom tier of states in this category. The state’s aspiring high school teachers must have majored in the subjects they plan to teach, but not all middle school teachers must do the same.

The state is one of only five that have not established or piloted alternative-route programs for recruiting new teachers. And while Maine requires its teachers to pass a basic-skills test, it does not require either high school or middle school teachers to take subject-matter exams, an omission that significantly lowers its grade. The state reports that such tests will be required next school year, however. The state lacks performance assessments for new teachers already in the classroom.

Maine provides money for teacher professional development for all its districts, but it fails to require and pay for mentoring for all new teachers.

The state also has room to intensify its efforts in teacher accountability. The state includes little teacher-qualification information on its school report cards. It identifies low-performing teacher education programs through its program-approval and -review process, but it does not make those ratings publicly available.

School Climate: Maine earned a high grade in school climate partly because administrators in the state rate their schools as having positive school climates on the National Assessment of Educational Progress survey.

Based on data from that survey, 98 percent of 4th and 8th graders attend schools in which a school official reports that physical conflicts are not a problem or are only a minor problem.

A larger percent of students in Maine attend smaller schools than in most other states at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The state’s average class size of 18 students in elementary schools is well below the national average of 21.2.

But the state’s grade drops because Maine has done little to expand parents’ options in choosing public schools. Maine has only a limited open-enrollment policy, and it is one of only 10 states without charter school laws.

Equity: Maine has inequities in education funding based on property wealth, according to its wealth-neutrality score.

The state’s wealth-neutrality score is positive, which means that, on average, wealthy districts have more state and local revenue than property-poor districts do. The score shows moderate disparities in funding based on local property wealth: The state ranks 30th out of the 50 states on that indicator.

The state also ranks 48th on the McLoone Index, and 30th on the coefficient of variation, two other measures of finance equity that indicate the state has a wider variation in spending across districts than in many other states.

Spending: Maine is one of the highest-spending states, ranking ninth nationally in education spending, at $8,986 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year.

That was an increase of 7.1 percent from the previous year. Eighty-two percent of students attend schools in districts that spend at least the national average.

Maine ranks 17th on the spending index, which takes into account the number of students in districts spending at least the national average and how far the rest of the students are below the average.

Maine spends 5 percent of its total taxable resources on education, placing it fourth out of 50 states.

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