Maine: No tuition for sophomores?

Sophomore year would be free at University of Maine campuses under a plan proposed by a Democratic candidate for governor. One third of first-year students don’t make it to their second year.

High schools may pay for college remediation

When high school graduates need remedial classes in college, who pays? Mississippi and Maine may hold school districts responsible for the costs of teaching basic skills in community colleges.

As many as 70 percent of entering community college students nationwide are placed in remedial courses.

Maine likes laptops, but do kids learn more?

Ten years after Maine started giving a tax-funded laptop to every public school student in grades 7 and 8, teachers and students are enthusiastic, but it’s not clear students are learning more, writes Ricki Morell of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting on the Hechinger Report.

FREEPORT, Maine — At Freeport Middle School, students in algebra class play “Battleship” on their laptops as they learn to plot coordinates on a graph. At Massabesic Middle School, eighth-graders surf the web on their laptops to create their own National History Day websites. And at King Middle School, students carry their laptops into the field as they chronicle the civil rights movement through eyewitness interviews.

Laptops “revolutionized the classroom,” says Raymond Grogan, principal of Freeport Middle School, who was a teacher when the program started. Teachers stop lecturing and started individualizing lessons, Grogan says.

Middle school teachers said “the laptops have helped them teach more, in less time, and with greater depth, and to
individualize their curriculum and instruction more,” according to an August 2011 report. However, the program has been implemented unevenly.

“The benefits are difficult to quantify,” says David Silvernail, the report’s author and co-director of the nonpartisan Maine Education Policy Research Institute. “So many other things are going on in schools, it’s difficult to classify what makes the difference. The laptop is a tool, just like a pencil.”

Students can use the laptops at school and at home. There have been problems with “distraction from unrestricted access to the Internet,” educators say. Breakage problems have improved over time.

The free laptop idea spread to other states and school districts, but has faded because of funding pressures and mixed results, Morrell writes.

Beginning in 2004, the nonprofit Texas Center for Educational Research compared the test scores of students at 22 Texas middle schools where students and teachers received laptops with the scores of students at 22 middle schools where they did not. The study concluded that laptops had a positive effect on some math scores but generally not on reading scores.

In Maine, statewide evidence of how laptops affect achievement is scarce. Test scores for Maine from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, show that the percentage of students scoring proficient or above in eighth-grade mathematics rose from 30 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2011, but that was part of a national trend of rising math scores and can’t be linked directly to laptop use. Between 2002 and 2011, the percentage of Maine’s eighth-graders scoring at or above proficient on the national reading test barely changed, rising from 38 to 39 percent.

 Angus King, who pushed through the laptop program as governor, is now running for U.S. Senate. His opponent charges the free laptops have been a waste of money. The state pays Apple a discounted rate of $242 per laptop per year, which adds up to $10 million this year, less than half a percent of the state’s $2 billion education budget.

If poverty is destiny, what about Maine?

If the education crisis is all about poverty, what about Maine? Maine is a poor state — especially for blacks — yet graduation rates are high, writes Michael Holzman on Dropout Nation. Some 84 percent of black males in Maine complete high school compared to 89 percent of white males. Nationwide, 49 percent of black males and 73 percent of white males earn a diploma. That means those low-income blacks in Maine are outperforming the national average for whites by a healthy margin.

Of course, there aren’t many blacks in Maine. They’re not concentrated in inferior schools, writes Holzman.

 They attend the same schools as their white peers, have the same teachers, and must meet the same expectations. They are not herded into “drop-out factories” and expected to fail.

I’d guess ghetto culture hasn’t taken root in Maine. We drove up there  in late September to meet our future son-in-law’s family, who live way up north in potato-and-moose country. The week after we were there, his grandmother shot a moose. There was talk of serving it at the rehearsal dinner, but it was an old, tough moose which apparently requires injecting pig lard and cooking for several days to be edible. So maybe not.

 

Small incentive doesn’t aid performance

Linking a small percentage of funding to higher education performance hasn’t boosted retention or graduation rates in Tennessee, a new study finds, researchers say a bigger incentive might make a difference.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Maine considers expanding early-college options and creating five-year high schools that would offer the chance to earn an associate degree.

Maine rights panel backs down

Once eager to ban “biology-based” school restrooms, locker rooms and sports teams, the Maine Human Rights Commission has shelved guidelines that covered everything from preschool to college, reports Fox News.  The panel canceled a public hearing on how schools should accommodate transgender students and postponed indefinitely work on a “Sexual Orientation in Schools and Colleges” brochure.

Maine rights panel bans biology

“Biology-based restrooms, locker rooms and sports teams discriminate against transgendered students, says the Maine Human Rights Commission.

. . . Last year, the commission ruled that, under the Maine Human Rights Act, a school had discriminated against a 12-year-old transgender boy by denying him access to the girls’ bathroom.

The transgendered boy’s parents sued after the school told him to use the single-stall faculty restroom, rather than the girls’ room.

The  commission will issue guidelines for schools from preschools to universities, including “some private schools,” Fox reported.

A transgendered boy might feel uncomfortable in a boys’ bathroom or locker room. Wouldn’t a whole lot of girls feel uncomfortable encountering him in a girls’ restroom or locker room?

Coaches are worried about the effect on women’s sports if males can compete on women’s teams.