Maine’s failure to embrace school reform continues to embarrass…


As a sign of how far behind the other states Maine is with regard to school reform, Education Week today included Maine among a group of states it dubbed the “disinterested dozen,” which are states that did not seek grants from the Gates Foundation to help them prepare applications for the federal Race to the Top fund.

According to Education Week, the Gates Foundation has provided twenty-five states with grants of up to $250,000 to help them organize their applications for the federal Race to the Top Fund. In order to qualify for funding from Gates, states had to meet a set of criteria outlined in a letter from the Gates Foundation’s Vicki Phillips.

The criteria are as follows:

1.    Has your state signed the MOA regarding the Common Core Standards currently being
developed by NGA/CCSSO? [Answer must be “yes”]
2.    Does your state plan to adopt the common core standards by June 2010 (as currently
referenced in the draft RTT guidance)?  [Answer must be “yes”]
3.    Demonstrate how your state plans to adopt/prioritize the common core standards currently
being developed by NGA/CCSSO? [Answers will be scrutinized to assess commitment and
4.    Does your state offer an alternative route(s) to teacher certification?  [Answer must be “yes”]
5.    Does your state grant teacher tenure in fewer than three years?  [Answer must be “no” or the
state should be able to demonstrate a plan to set a higher bar for tenure]
6.    Does your state have policies or grant programs  (e.g., TIF grant) in place that encourage the
placement of the most effective teachers in schools with most disadvantaged kids ( campuses undergoing state/fed accountability intervention) [Answer must be “yes” or state
must demonstrate commitment and/or plans to put policies in place]
7.    Does state have at least six of the DQC’s 10 essential data elements?  (Required six: unique
student identifier, teacher‐student link, student level enrollment data, graduation and dropout
8.    Does your state have policies that prohibit the linkage and/or usage of student achievement
data in teacher evaluations?

Unfortunately for Maine, most of its answers to the questions above would not be to the liking of the Gates Foundation, which is almost certainly why the state did not even pursue a Gates grant. 14 states applied for grants and were turned down, another dozen, including Maine, didn’t even apply for a Gates grant in the first place.

(The answers Maine would have to give to the questions above, but the way, would be Yes on 1, No on 2, No plan at this point on 3, No on 4, Yes on 5, No on 6, Yes on 7 and Yes on 8.)

As Education Week notes, “not winning a [Gates] grant may not bode well for these states’ chances of winning a Race to the Top grant.”  Maine plans to sit out the first round of Race to the Top grants and apply in the second round after the state “makes some changes” to improve its competitive standing.  As we’ll demonstrate in an upcoming research paper, Maine’s ongoing resistance to educational innovation means it is a long, long way from being in a position to complete for federal funding, something the Gates grant debacle makes abundantly clear.