On Monday, I joined Gov. Paul LePage, Midcoast-area school administrators, and representatives from that region’s higher education and business communities to discuss education as an economic imperative for Maine’s Midcoast.
The discussion at Rockland’s Strand Theatre was a productive one. Our educators spoke of ambitious plans to make learning an engaging experience for our students by connecting them with resources and experiences that interest them — whether they’re within the school building, at the local career and technical education center, at a nearby community college or at a university campus.
Employers said they need workers who are dependable and adaptable. They need to be able to work in teams, communicate clearly, think critically and learn new skills as needed. More need to be skilled in the trades.
The themes brought up in Rockland aligned well with work we’ve started recently at the Department of Education.
Last week, we began wrapping our minds around what needs to be done to secure a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.
The prospect of abandoning an accountability system that stresses a narrow, test-driven curriculum and arbitrary targets for test performance is exciting.
We need to replace it with an accountability system that stresses continuous improvement and constructive feedback for our educators, and genuine learning for our students through a system that emphasizes critical thinking and higher-order skills over rote memorization and test preparation.
Also last week, we hosted the first meeting of the newly appointed task force focused on expanding early college and other postsecondary education opportunities for high school students. We know we have students who are interested in taking college classes while they’re still in high school. We know we have students who are anxious to start down particular career paths that require postsecondary training.
Allowing high school students to enroll in college classes in areas that interest them could prove a good way to keep those students engaged, on track and learning the skills they’ll need to be successful in college and in their careers.
As we apply for a waiver from No Child Left Behind and figure out how to make early college available to more high school students, the focus will be on the needs of our students.
By focusing on students’ needs for meaningful, challenging learning experiences that prepare them for the rigors of college and careers, we can achieve the vision many called for in Rockland.