The upside of not being first

Author icon: Head shot of Commissioner Stephen BowenSometimes, it’s OK if we’re not first.

In fact, it offers Maine an advantage when it comes to preparing an application for flexibility from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

In October, Maine filed its official notice of intent to apply for No Child Left Behind flexibility in time for a mid-February 2012 deadline. The middle of February is a full three months after mid-November, when 11 states sent their applications for NCLB flexibility to Washington, D.C.

That means that as we in Maine work on our plan for a new accountability system — one that recognizes our educators when they help students grow, provides them with constructive feedback when improvement is needed and allows for a wide variety of improvement strategies — we have the benefit of reviewing the plans of 11 states that have already designed such systems.

Maybe Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee have some ideas that could work in Maine schools.

I encourage you to take a look at the applications they’ve filed. They’re available for download on the U.S. Department of Education website. I also encourage you to review the website of the Center on Education Policy, which has a state-by-state breakdown of plans for seeking NCLB flexibility.

To be sure, we don’t plan to look only to other states to generate ideas for Maine’s flexibility application. A specially appointed team of Department of Education staff members is scaling up its activities in the coming weeks to hear from you.

This week, we’ve launched an expanded web page to detail our efforts to secure NCLB flexibility, at http://www.maine.gov/education/nclb/flexibility.html. That page will continue to grow as more information becomes available. And the page will soon detail how you can have your say: we’re developing an online survey and we’ll invite you soon to participate in a continuing online discussion about the elements of Maine’s application.

On Thursday, we’re holding a webinar with school superintendents to answer their questions and collect ideas on how to move forward with the development of our application. We’re also making plans to hold at least two in-person meetings and a webinar for the public in the coming weeks.

Those sessions will allow us to hear from educators and the public about what they’d like to see in an accountability system that replaces the decade-old system of arbitrary testing targets and adequate yearly progress we’ve had under No Child Left Behind.

As all of that is happening, Department staff members plan to reach out to various groups of stakeholders representing teachers, administrators, businesses and others to seek their input.

Stay tuned. If you’ve been waiting for information about Maine’s plans for seeking flexibility from No Child Left Behind, you’ll have a lot of it in no time.

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