Tagged: Maine

An election in Maine

eliotcutler-150Political junkies in Nova Scotia tend to keep an eye on elections in adjacent provinces, but not so much in adjacent US states. The Atlantic’s James Fallows points to an interesting race for governor of Maine, where independent candidate (and Fallows friend) Eliot Cutler seemed to be coming on strong last week, rising in the polls and winning an avalanche of major newspaper endorsements.

As Fallows points out, victory for an independent is not so far-fetched in the Pine Tree State, where two of the last five governors won election as independents. Viewed from a region devoid of political leadership, Cutler sounds appealing.

He is serious (but also funny), well experienced in politics and with a politician’s natural affability, and extremely ambitious for his home state. Maine has all the natural endowments that tourists and residents of the rest of the country know about — but also some very deep problems with its school systems, its economic base, and the general preparedness of its year-round population for modern global competition. I heard Eliot Cutler talk about this a lot while we were in China [where Fallows and Culter both lived for several years]. Whatever new factory I’d visited or research project he’d learned about became the prelude for a discussion of what Maine would need to do to keep up. If you’re not from Maine, a little of this can go a long way — but for people of the state it’s a good kind of obsession for a public figure to have.

Sounds a bit like Frank McKenna.

Class size vs. achievement

How much does class size affect performance on standardized tests? The charts displayed below plot US state-level student-teacher ratios against against the results for three parts of the SAT Reasoning Test (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test) used in US college admissions.

SAT-scores-math-read

SAT-scores-writing

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These tables, from the wonderful FlowingData website, obviously use US data, but the results may have implications here.

States with higher SAT scores are shown in green, and generally have lower student-teacher ratios.

The ratio is not perfect, however. Utah has the largest classes in the US, but maintains better-than-average test scores. Maine has the smallest classes in the country, but ranks among the lowest in SAT scores.

Click for a larger version and a fuller explanation.

Whether SATs measure anything that could remotely be termed “aptitude” is another question.