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Business-Led Group Says Education in Maine Falling Short
10/31/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

A business-led organization has launched a new set of indicators to assess educational attainment in Maine. Educate Maine says the state must do more to prepare students for higher education and to earn degrees. And as Patty Wight reports, members of the group think they may be in a position to help.

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A business-led organization has launched a new set of indicators to assess educational attainment in Maine. Educate Maine says the state must do more to prepare students for higher education and to earn degrees. And as Patty Wight reports, members of the group think they may be in a position to help.

Mike Dubyak is the chairman of Educate Maine, the organization that released its first-ever report measuring Maine student participation and achievement from pre-K through higher ed. Dubyak is also CEO of South Portland-based WEX, a company that provides payment services. He's says the two roles are very much connected.

"As my role of heading up WEX, which has 1,400 associates in five countries, half of those now residing in Maine, we need world-class talent to compete on a global scale in these countries, and we're expanding into other countries," Dubyak said.

In order to meet the needs of businesses, and for overall economic prosperity, Dubyak says Maine needs to step up its education game. He says when it comes to attaining college degrees or post secondary credentials, the state ranks lower than the rest of New England, and is just barely above the national average.

"Therefore, our goal is that by 2023, Maine will attain or surpass the New England average of 50 percent of its worforce possessing post-secondary degrees or credentials," Dubyak said.

Pushing for higher educational achivement in Maine is nothing new. But according to former Commissioner of Education, and Educate Maine board member, Duke Albanese, the members of the group making the push are. "I'm not sure we've had so many important pieces of Maine together on this matter and this issue," Albanese said.

Educ. newser - Allyn HuttonEducate Maine is led by business leaders. It also includes representatives from public schools and higher education, two groups that Albanese says have not coordinated past efforts to raise the educational bar. The superintendent of Kittery schools, Allyn Hutton (left, at podium), says there needs to be a fundamental culture shift in schools.

"It is no longer OK that we move students through the grade levels because of their age or seat time," she said.

Instead, Hutton says, schools should use proficiency-based learning, where specific targets are identified, students are held accountable, and schools provide the appropriate support. She says Kittery launched such a program this year in freshman science, and the plan is to expand it to all freshman courses next year.

Ron Cantor, president of Southern Maine Community College, says it's clear many of Maine's high school graduates are not equipped with the skills they need.

"Maine is proud to graduate 85 percent of its students from high schools. But what does graduation mean if less than half of those holding diplomas have achieved proficiency in the basic subjects?" he said.

Members of Educate Maine say ensuring students achieve greater educational attainment begins with a solid foundation in pre-K education. And by evaluating schools as a system, with input from businesses to identify gaps, Maine can create a pipeline for higher ed.

Photos:  Irwin Gratz



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