Maine joins 3 states in regional effort to boost graduations
Mass., Conn. have been offered role
AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine is joining three other New England states in a partnership that hopes to boost graduation rates and decrease dropout rates while putting more emphasis on learning experiences outside the classroom, Governor John Baldacci announced yesterday.
With a $1 million grant, the New England Secondary School Consortium will scrutinize current practices and hear details of innovations taken by schools in the participating states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. The four states have offered Massachusetts and Connecticut an opportunity to join, Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron said.
Besides boosting the graduation rate to 90 percent and decreasing the dropout rate to less than 1 percent, the consortium has set goals to bolster enrollment of students in two- or four-year colleges to 80 percent.
In addition, it seeks to reduce the need for college remedial courses to 5 percent and ensure that more students who enter college graduate.
Baldacci, chairman of the New England Governors Conference, called formation of the consortium groundbreaking and said it will help schools to prepare students to join a labor market that has been affected by the changing global economy.
Higher education plays a key role in preparing students for a new wave of jobs, said Baldacci, who sees "an urgent need to redesign our schools and learning models to meet the challenges before us."
"Our new partnership will bring bold, transformative innovation to the design and delivery of secondary education," Baldacci said. "I'm confident that this partnership will provide our students with new opportunities in and out of the classroom to prepare for bright futures ahead."
The consortium envisions high schools in which students conduct research in their communities, acquire skills through internships, and take online and on-campus college courses.
Some innovations are already being tried or considered in Maine and the other states. At Messalonskee High School in Oakland, for example, more than 150 college credits have been earned by students, which has a side benefit of saving parents thousands of dollars on tuition costs, said Jim Morse, superintendent of the central Maine district.
Gendron said innovations in other states include creating a learning environment for art students in a Rhode Island school that has helped to channel 100 percent of the students to further education. In New Hampshire, educators are looking at ways students can earn credit for experiences outside the classroom, she said.
The $1 million grant for the consortium comes from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the largest philanthropy in New England focused exclusively on education.
It includes a $500,000 partnership grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Last week the same four states announced collaboration on testing through the New England Common Assessment Program, a multistate testing partnership.
By joining the partnership, Maine hopes to reduce its costs for testing by up to $1 million per year.