Education Week’s Quality Counts report out


Education Week’s annual Quality
Counts report
is out and the news isn’t great for Maine. Each year, the education
world’s paper of record catalogs a whole host of data on the nation’s schools
and ranks states on everything from standards and assessment to teacher quality
to dropout rates.

The school
finance section of the report
reveals that Maine is among the highest
spending states in the nation. The paper calculated Maine’s 2007 per-pupil
spending, adjusted for “regional cost differences” to be $13,646
per-pupil, the fourth highest in the nation behind Wyoming, New Jersey and
Vermont. The percent of “total taxable resources spent on education”
was 4.8 percent, good enough for third highest in the nation. Spending on
schools, despite what one hears, is not an issue.

Despite this high spending, Maine is in the middle of the pack on the “chance for
success” measures
, despite the fact that 97.7 percent its children
have parents who are fluent English speakers, the fifth highest rate in the

A fascinating fact from this section of the report? The percent of adults in
Maine ages 25-64 who are working full time and year-round is only 68.9 percent,
well below the national average of 73 percent. Only three other states have a
rate that is lower. What on earth are Maine’s adults who are not yet of
retirement age doing all day?

Maine’s ranking on the “teaching
” indicators was 31st in the nation. Maine’s requirements
for entry into the teaching profession are weak, according to Education Week,
and its evaluation and accountability provisions virtually nonexistent. Teacher
evaluation is not tied to student achievement in Maine and Maine’s data system,
as I reported in our new Racing to
Catch Up
out earlier this week, does not match student outcome
data to individual teachers, as is done in 20 other states.

A fascinating fact from this section of the report? The median student/teacher
ratio in primary grades in Maine is 8.8 to 1, by far the lowest in the nation.
The number two state, Vermont, has a student/teacher ratio of 11 to 1. The
national average is 15 to 1.  And our schools don’t think they can find
any way to cut their budgets??

As I reported in the Racing to
Catch Up
, Maine is seen as doing very poorly on standards and
assessment. Education Week ranks the state third from the bottom in the standards,
assessment and accountability
section of the report, giving the state poor
marks for its lack of real accountability measures, its poor reporting of
school performance, and the absence of any kind of sanctions for low-performing

So, what have we learned here? We have learned that we spend more on our
schools than almost any other state, we ask our teachers to teach fewer kids
than any other state, yet our academic performance is average at best and that
is before one accounts for state’s unique student demographics.  Perhaps
all of this comes from having virtually no accountability for teachers, school
administrators and school boards. We spend a fortune, get mediocrity in return,
and do nothing about it.