An investigation into the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) and the Maine Department of Education is now being promoted by concerned citizens in Maine.

In a revealing article titled, “The Right View: who pulls the strings for Maine education policy?” the author exposes a scandal that’s been brewing over who actually controls Maine’s local schools.  This is something New Hampshire residents should also be concerned about.

From the article:

“Over the past couple of decades, unelected, outside, and powerfully backed individuals have been quietly taking education control out of parents’ and teachers’ hands.

Outside money and influence now control our education agenda, and your locally elected school board has been rendered essentially impotent. Centralized curriculum coordinators and education “consultants” now run the show……”

They are referring to the Nellie Mae Foundation and how this organization uses their grant money to control local schools.  The same thing is being done in New Hampshire and yet, how many parents and school board members realize they’ve lost control?

What’s wrong with grant money coming into a school district?  After all, many schools need additional funding.  The devil is always in the details.

It would be wise for parents and board members to request to see copies of the grant application by the school district or NH Dept. of education.  They can do that by filing a “Right to Know Request” and asking to see all documents associated with the Nellie Mae grant.

You will see for instance, that your school district will be required to do things like, tell teachers how to teach.  In Maine, Nellie Mae was the instigator for proficiency based learning which they describe as a “theory of action.”

And yet in this letter from State Board of Ed member Heidi Sampson to all of the elected legislators in New Hampshire, she warns against following Maine’s example and highlights the insidious ways Nellie Mae has had on state legislation. Not only are local districts selling local control, Sampson alerts legislators that this transformation has caused students to learn less:


Maine’s Education and Cultural Affair Committee commissioned a 2 year study to be conducted on this issue. David Silvernail and the USM Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation posted their work April 30, 2014 titled Implementation of a Proficiency-Based Diploma System: Early Experiences in Maine. Although this work was funded by the Nellie Mae Foundation, which strongly advocated for proficiency based education this report is not a glowing report. There evidence of success is lacking: “After an extensive review of the literature, it became evident that, while there are many conceptual pieces describing what a standards-based or proficiency-based education system should look like, there are few existing conceptual models that envelop all of the requisite elements for successful implementation. Furthermore, there is limited empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these systems, which has resulted in school districts having little historical information and no clear evidence to guide them in developing the new diploma systems.” (pgs. 16-17).
A related study sited within the same USM study stated: “In addition, this study’s statistical comparison of a proficiency-based intervention programs to nonintervention programs revealed that the intervention group demonstrated lower academic performance.” (Lewis et al., 2013, p. 3-4).

Sampson goes on to call for independent studies versus the studies that could be biased when done by the organization itself.

I asked Heather Gage, Division Director at the New Hampshire Department of Education, for independent data on student achievement since Competency Based Education has been implemented at the direction of the Nellie Mae grants that have come in to New Hampshire.  Her response was that there were no studies to cite and that I could wade through the proficiency scores that have been reported by each school district throughout New Hampshire.

In other words, New Hampshire continues down a path where Nellie Mae is controlling school districts by forcing the Competency Based Education model, with no evidence it actually improves academic achievement.

The Competency Based Ed model being implemented in New Hampshire is based off of the old and failed Outcome Based Ed model.  In Maine they call it Proficiency Based Ed.  The model doesn’t change much the but name does.  This is done so parents can’t trace the new reform model back to the old failed model.   Some might call this, an attempt to manipulate the public.

School districts like Pittsfield, NH have already received funding from Nellie Mae but as this article in the Concord Monitor describes, students are being left behind.  Pittsfield accepted the grant money from Nellie Mae and the “strings” as prescribed in the grant application, yet where are the results?

Maybe the focus Nellie Mae brings to schools isn’t necessarily a focus on academic achievement.  Maybe their focus is more on social engineering as this article describes.

Whatever their focus is, it’s important for parents to understand that their voices are being silenced, not only by government mandates but through grant organizations who dangle money in front of school administrators and State Boards of Education in an effort to control their schools.

The Rochester School district in New Hampshire is the latest district Nellie Mae is trying to purchase.  Bill Duncan, who is the latest appointed school board member in New Hampshire,  has been singing the praises of Nellie Mae buying local control.   Duncan, who has been one of the most vocal supporters of Common Core, came out in full support of Rochester selling their local control to Nellie Mae.

Duncan doesn’t mention this letter by Susan O’Connor, Rochester School Board member, who sent testimony to the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules on Competency Based Education:

Competency Based Education is the repackaging of Outcome Based Education, a system that failed our children miserably when introduced into our public schools over 30 years ago, and was subsequently removed.

Those who are pushing Competency Based Education do not tell parents that “success” for all children means “success” in demonstrating only the dumbed-down outcomes that the slowest learners in the class can attain. Competency Based Education means “success” in mediocrity rather than excellence, as a true competency is precise and complex and needs to constantly be reviewed and updated.

Several years ago in my own district of Bedford, parents were upset that a politically biased book was being used in a personal finance class.  Upon further investigation, the Curriculum Superintendent  confirmed that this book was chosen to meet a “competency.”   This wasn’t a lesson on personal finance skills but a deliberate attempt to water down the academic content and replace it with a political message from an author who had no experience in the subject of personal finance.  This was yet another example of how Outcome Based Education (aka..21st Century Skills, Competency Based Ed, Proficiency Based Ed, etc.) reduces the focus on academic content.

Schools are moving away from offering students a foundation in knowledge (literacy) to a workforce development model that has been proven to lower literacy rates among the student population.

This revealing information from Maine now shows you who bought local school administrators and bureaucrats working at the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools.
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