The State Of Maine Education: Dr. Robert Hasson

I conducted the first interview in the State of Maine Education series with Dr. Robert Hasson.  Dr Hasson is superintendent of schools in my district, SAD #51.  In the interview we discussed dropout rates, school consolidation, charter schools, and more.  Full interview after the cut.

Could you give me your “State of the Union” for Maine education?

Maine’s K-16 Public School system is ripe for reconceptualizing to meet the needs of 21st century learners.  50  high performing “districts” would probably be about the right number. Personalization, digital learning, a focus on core values and beliefs, equity and teaching to the future should be the expectation of every Maine student.

2006-2007 high school completion statistics show that 95.68% of MSAD 51 students completed high school.  The state average was 81.33% for that year.  To what do you credit MSAD 51’s high graduation rates

Part of our  success can be understood through a socioeconomic lens. A fuller understanding includes a focus on customizing/personalizing each student’s 13 year experience, supportive families and communities, and educators who believe all students can succeed. There is a focus on math and literacy success for all students and professional learning for teachers.

Some have said that multiple choice examinations are not an accurate measure of what a child has learned.  Do you feel that the battery of tests used in the MeCAS to be effective measures?

Maine needs to adopt MCAS.

What test are successful in the system?

NWEA

Which test need to be changed or dropped entirely?

Any tests that do not produce information for students, parents (guardians) and teachers that leads to improve learning.

There have been a few hotly contested education legislation proposed this past session.  I’d like to address a few of those with you.

Rep. Brian Bolduc attempted a bill to outlaw merit pay for teachers last April.  Rep. Bolduc also went on to say, “If a teachers’ union wants to pursue (merit pay), they’re not in the spirit of an equitable system.”  Do you agree with Rep. Bolduc’s assertion that merit pay is unfair to teachers and would cause more problems than it solved?

Merit pay has a less than high success rate in K-12 cultures. Teacher compensation needs to be rethought and professionalized with the focus on student achievement and teacher satisfaction becoming the targets.

LD 1438 (the Charter School Bill) garnered support from state officials and educators alike.  Yet the Maine Senate chose to vote down charter schools in Maine.  What did Maine parents and students miss out on because of the Senate’s decision?

Millions of federal dollars and one more potential way to approach learning in Maine. This missed opportunity is a very unfortunate for us and negatively positions us with the Feds and other funders…..

Maine legislators spent a good deal of time this past session working on the most recent school consolidation legislation.  School consolidation brought out passionate feelings in supporters and detractors.  Some neighbors of MSAD 51 were against the legislation as well.  Is school consolidation helpful to towns and districts?  Why, in your opinion, did school consolidation meet such heavy resistance?

It was not thoughtfully designed. The focus was off. Instead of hammering away at educational opportunities and results we talked about financial savings. It was met with heavy resistance because of the process used. Instead of being included superintendents were excluded and vilified. Finally,the statute was not as elegant as it could have been constructed.

I think we may want to use a BRAC process to restructure the Maine House, reduce the number of school districts and towns in order to meet the challenges of the next twenty years.

Where do you see Maine education going in the next ten years?

With good leadership it could be within the top quartile nationally. If we continue lurching from from one crisis/initiative to the next we will continue to decline.

I remain positive and hopeful!

Is there anything that I have not touched upon that you would like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions Derek.-Bob

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