LePage to join Chris Christie in town hall-style campaign event

Good morning from wet and drippy Augusta, which we’ll celebrate with my favorite rain song.

Maine schools and the Department of Education reached a milestone Thursday with the release of new Smarter Balanced standardized test scores in English language arts and mathematics for grades 3 through 8 and the junior year of high school. The test, used for the first time in Maine this past spring, reflects standards defined in the state’s Learning Results program, which has been adapted to include the Common Core state standards.

The scores cannot be compared with previous testing because the previous tests were different, and Maine is moving away from the Smarter Balanced test so the scores won’t be comparable next year, either. The new computer-based test is designed to have students apply their knowledge to “real-world problems” through using writing, research and complex analysis skills.

Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin praised schools for transitioning to the new test and new education standards all at once. He called it a “huge challenge” in a press release circulated late Thursday night (the Patriots game was nearing halftime).

“The shift to a computerized assessment from paper and pencil was difficult enough, but the shift to new standards and a more rigorous assessment made this year’s effort an unusually difficult task,” said Desjardin.

The following graph from the Department of Education shows the percentage of students who met the state standards (level 3) or exceeded them (level 4). As you can see, less than half of Maine students are measuring up in most grades and categories, though science, as measured by another test, the Maine Educational Assessment, appears to be a bright spot.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 8.36.42 AMHere’s another graph that mixes grade levels to provide a statewide picture of how many students are meeting of exceeding the state standards.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 8.46.09 AMOfficials with the Department of Education are scheduled to be available today to put these numbers in perspective. Watch bangordailynews.com for more coverage. 

LePage and Chris Christie to campaign together, again, in New Hampshire

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run for president, will swing through New Hampshire on Sunday and Monday, including a town hall-style meeting with Maine Gov. Paul LePage. The town hall is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Sunday at Newick’s Lobster House in Dover.

This marks at least the sixth time in recent years that LePage and Christie have campaigned together.

Stephen King honored by Obama

Stephen King, y’know, the internationally famous author from Bangor, added another honor to his resume Thursday when he was bestowed the 2014 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal. King was one of 18 individuals and organizations, including Oscar-winning actress Sally Field, honored in the East Room of the White House.

“They all have one thing in common,” said Obama. “They do what they do because of some urgent inner force.”

That seems to fit what we know about our favorite native author, who has published more than 50 books and 200 short stories. King said on his Facebook page that he was “amazed and grateful.” That seems to fit the emotions captured in this Reuters photo:

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Congrats, Mr. King. As a life-long fan who has read the majority of your books, I say this is very well deserved.

Reading list

Maine ultrarunner stars in MBPN ‘100:Head/Heart/Feet’ documentary

100_poster2Zak Wieluns, and ultrarunner from Portland, first attempted the Vermont 100 Endurance Race in 2011, but collapsed from exhaustion at the 89-mile checkpoint (which I find completely understandable). In 2012, it was a knee injury that halted him after 30 miles.

The already award-winning film, titled “100: Head/Heart/Feet,” has been described by critics as a Rocky-esque tale of human endurance and determination centering around Wieluns, who grew up in Waldoboro. It airs on MPBN at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Why are you reading about this in the Daily Brief? Because students and faculty from my alma mater, Colby-Sawyer College, and its documentary production organization, Windcrossing Productions, helped make it, along with Hammer & Saw Films. Windcrossing was founded by the late Professor Donald Coonley, who is among my all-time favorite mentors, and is now overseen by Professor Donna Berghorn, another mentor.

I know the sort of storytelling that is cherished at Colby-Sawyer and I’m eager to see how the craft has progressed in the years since I graduated. I’ll be tuning in and I hope you do, too.


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.