Maine’s educational system is in dire need of attention

Maine students are missing school days amidst declining test scores

This is Rep. Heidi Sampson of Alfred with the weekly Republican address. 

“Maine students are missing more school days than before the pandemic.”

That was a recent headline in the Portland Press Herald.

The percentage of students marked “chronically absent,” missing 10% of the school year, rose from 16.6% in 2018 to 27.3% in 2023.

In some school districts, the number of chronically absent students is startling, over 50%.

This news comes on the heels of a steady decline in student test scores.

According to some measures, Maine test scores have dropped to the lowest point measured since the national assessments began 30 years ago.

It was reported last year that eighth grade math scores dropped to their lowest point since 1992, and fourth grade math scores hit their lowest point since 2003.

Although no state was spared the academic impact of the pandemic, Maine student test scores took some of the most significant plunges compared to other states.

Maine scores began falling behind before the pandemic. Closing the schools during covid-19 only made students fall even further behind.

Comments by Maine’s Commissioner of Education are troubling. She told the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee:

“Academic learning is definitely going to take a backseat to all of these other pieces.”

According to the Commissioner, traditional academic learning — like reading, writing, and math — should be a lower priority in Maine schools than social-emotional learning and race and gender programming.

Basic learning, measurable achievement, and getting students to attend school should be our highest priority.

The situation demands our attention.

It demands action beyond the predictable call for more funding.

Truth is, both Republicans under Governor LePage and Democrats under Governor Mills have increased funding of Maine’s educational system.

House Republicans supported the 55% funding for schools.

But as education funding has increased, test scores have continued to plummet.

Maine once had an educational system that compared very favorably with other states.

The purpose of this radio address is not to assign blame, it is a call to action.

The student learning crisis requires all of us to work together.

House Republicans believe that state educational leaders should publicly engage parents in order to determine the most pressing issues facing their children and help find solutions.

We know that parents have primary responsibility for their children’s learning and well-being.

Parents know what is in the best interests of their children.  

In recognition of that fact, House Republicans have offered several bills to empower and engage parents in helping direct student learning and foster educational achievement.

Unfortunately, our ideas have been rejected by Democrats in favor of the status quo.

The status quo is not working.

Money is important, but money alone will not fix what is wrong with Maine’s educational system.

Let’s find a way to engage parents, along with classroom teachers, to seek ways to turn things around.

We owe it to our children and future generations to find a solution that will help them catch up and guide them on a path toward future success.

This has been Rep. Heidi Sampson with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.

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