I read with interest Rep. Heidi Sampson’s article on proficiency-based standards (“In Maine schools, ‘proficiency’ may not mean what you think it does.” March 20). It is no surprise that she agrees with those of us who don’t believe establishing new standards will help to improve the educational process.

I’ve lost track of how many times the state and the country have established new standards. Each time we’ve added to the time educators spend in documentation, while decreasing time available for instruction. The result? Sixty-seven percent of the state’s fourth-graders don’t read very well. For more on the subject read “Reading By Grade Three”, a report of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, at AECF.org.

Proficiency-based standards are one more example of the problem with this approach. First, it assumes the problem is the lack of standards in public education. How did we arrive at that understanding? Clearly not through any analytical objective process.

Let’s assume we agree that such a process should be established. How does one analyze a practice that varies from school to school? A school-by-school approach isn’t practical in part because it is a prohibitively expensive process. In addition, a school-by-school approach assumes that the problem is exclusively with the school.

Continuous-quality improvement offers a proven long-term improvement model. Vermont and Maine have entered into a partnership aimed at improving pediatric care. All pediatricians in Vermont have willingly committed to it. With years of effective operation, it offers a model for such a system in education.

Teachers will resist control over method. School boards will scream bloody murder at the encroachment on local control. Politicians will run for cover. The rest of us will continue to wonder what it will take for the body politic to understand how serious we have allowed the problem to become.

Dean Crocker

Estero, Florida and Manchester, Maine

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