Bowen meets with future teachers at University of Maine

AUGUSTA – Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen met with future teachers at the University of Maine Wednesday to talk about how they are preparing for the profession and about new approaches to education.

“Nothing in the school affects student achievement more than having an effective teacher,” Bowen said. “These teachers-in-training and I got to talk about teachers as ‘education managers’ and how we build a system in which students are engaged and at the center of every decision made.”

Bowen met later in the day with teachers, students, and administrators from the adult education program at Regional School Unit 3 in Thorndike.

The future teachers are students in the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University. They and Bowen discussed the move in Maine and nationally to instructional methods that focus on student proficiency – a so-called proficiency-based education system – in which students move on to new material once they’ve mastered previous material. That means students move at their own pace, and a teacher has students at multiple levels in the same classroom.

They also touched on developing standards of teacher and principal effectiveness, an important part of the Maine Department of Education’s strategic plan, and a key required element of Maine’s application for flexibility under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Bowen used his spring school and program visits to showcase work around the state that reflects the vision for Maine’s education future found in the Department’s strategic plan, unveiled in January. That vision is one of a “learner-centered” education system in which instructional methods, schedules, and all elements of the education system are focused on the needs of individual students. That means more pathways for students to follow in achieving their educational goals and the ability for students to learn in multiple ways at their own pace. The plan aims to bring focus to Maine’s efforts to improve student outcomes and prepare students for success in college and career.

The Orono visit focused on the “Great Teachers and Leaders” core priority from the strategic plan. Bowen talked about and sought feedback on how to measure teacher effectiveness, as research shows that the most important in-school factor in student achievement is having an effective teacher.

At RSU 3, Bowen planned to speak with school officials and students about state support for seamless integration of educational programs from early childhood to adulthood. He met with people from the SPICE family literacy program, and also toured Mount View High School’s innovative virtual adult education program.

Bowen stressed that his “tour” never really ends; he plans to visit programs next fall in his continual effort to highlight best practices from around the state and help share them with other schools and districts.

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