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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, I submitted legislation that will improve Maine’s bid for $75 million federal dollars for education reform in Maine.

These funds are part of an initiative called Race to the Top, which aims to make bold reforms to education across the country.

To be successful in our application, Maine must demonstrate its commitment to improved K-12 education.

Maine has long been recognized for taking bold initiatives to improve education, and I am confident that Maine will be a strong contender in the competition for Race to the Top funds.

Our State leads the way in the use of technology, and has been innovative by using the SAT test for 11th-grade students.

By using the test as part of the state assessments, we introduce students to the possibility of higher education and help prepare them for learning after high school.

The number of high school students enrolling in college courses as juniors and seniors through the Aspirations Incentive Program has more than tripled since I took office seven years ago.

This past year Maine joined New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island to administer a common test based on common standards for grades 3 through 8 in reading, writing and mathematics. And our students are performing well.

And a growing number of Maine students are taking and scoring well on rigorous Advanced Placement exams, putting Maine well ahead of the national average.

Our educational leadership in Maine is outstanding.

Maine’s Education Commissioner Sue Gendron is now on the national stage as the president of the association that represents the education commissioners in all 50 states, and closely involved in the formation of new national standards and assessments, and at the forefront of several other national and regional projects.

One of the places we have seen expanded educational programming this past year has been in the school districts that reorganized to be more efficient.

RSU 1 in the Bath area they have implemented universal pre-kindergarten, added more AP courses and enhanced their Gifted and Talented program – all while saving more than $1 million per year.

In Regional School Unit 24, which includes Ellsworth and 11 surrounding communities, they have been able to save programs like guidance, music and art, and Advanced Placement that would otherwise have been on the chopping block.

Reorganization is working.

Last week, the Education Committee working with my administration agreed unanimously to some modest changes in the law.

The minor changes will add flexibility so that well-intentioned small school districts that have had difficulty reorganizing can move forward.

The agreement recognizes that under special and unique circumstances some districts might need a little more help to successfully reorganize. Commissioner Gendron will have more leeway to approve reorganization plans.

Nobody gets exempted. That’s not fair to taxpayers and it’s not fair to our students.

We’re doing great things in education in Maine.

But we must do more.

If we want to be successful in the federal Race to the Top program, we need to make improvements.

The legislation I am submitting will do three things:

First, it will allow Maine to adopt new national Common Standards. But we will do that only if they meet our already-high expectations.

We’re not going to lower our standards.

Common Standards will help us to identify those areas where we excel and those areas that need improvement.

The standards will allow us once and for all to see where we are excelling and share our experience with others. And we will see where we come up short, and we will seek guidance and examples so that we can improve in those areas.

Next, we will allow school districts to link data on student performance to teachers.

This allows us to use real data as ONE way to measure the effectiveness of teachers, recognizing those who are doing a great job and helping those who need help to improve.

Finally, I am submitting legislation that will allow and encourage innovative public schools.

They will have the same flexibility of a charter school, but with the accountability of public schools, including all certified teachers.

These schools – created only by school boards that want them – will have flexibility in instruction design, staff selection, school calendars and assessments of professional development.

So when federal reviewers look at Maine’s application for funds, we know they will see a state that has already been successful and that is eager to innovate and improve.

Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

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