Don’t Let This Happen in Your State

Last spring, I pleaded with our state education committee to reconsider the “proficiency-based diploma” mandate that had passed in 2012.

This is experimental, I told them.  This idea did not come from teachers – it came from technology and student loan companies. The Gates Foundation is behind this, not parents, not teachers, not kids. There is no proof that this is best practice. Our students – our childrenare being used as guinea pigs.  They are using us to generate proof points!

Despite my impassioned plea, our education committee looked at me with blank stares.

(I didn’t know, at the time, that just a few years earlier, they had been courted by a group called Educate Maine on a retreat to learn about the virtues of proficiency-based education – a group that had been established and funded by Gates and Nellie Mae Education Foundation for the express purpose of generating “demand” for personalized learning.)

Oh how I wish I could get up before them again and say this:

I told you so.

With remarkably good (strategic) timing, the  National Governors Association recently published this document, called “Expanding Student Success: A Primer on Competency-Based Education from Kindergarten Through Higher Education,” which urges governors to consider adopting competency-based policies.

And what state do they highlight as a shining example for states to emulate?

Maine, of course.

Maine produced several communication resources to educate the public about its progress toward a CBE system. The Maine Department of Education home page prominently features the state’s plan, Education Evolving, for putting students first and a separate Web site devoted to CBE in the state. In addition to providing easy-to-navigate resources, the state created several informational videos that explain what CBE is and how it is benefiting Maine’s students. Governors in other states can use similar resources and work with their departments of education to develop plans and tools to publicize the benefits of CBE to students, families, educators, and state and local policymakers.

But who paid for and created the “resources” we have on our state DOE website?

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

Who paid for the trip our education committee took to learn about proficiency-based education?

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

Who paid for the very NGA document that encourages other states to use Maine as an example in their own work?

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

And who funds Nellie Mae?

Wait for it…

The Gates Foundation.

Sometimes I don’t know whether or not to do this:


Or this:


 Find out what they are cooking up in your state, and don’t let it happen to you.

Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Let This Happen in Your State”

  1. I didn’t need to get far into the NGA document before finding this:
    “Although further research and piloting are necessary
    and significant challenges to implementation exist,
    CBE shows promise for helping more elementary and
    secondary students meet higher standards of learning
    and become better prepared for college or a career
    training program.”


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