LePage brings education reform to forefront with student-focused conference

The following is a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Governor’s Conference on Education: Putting Students First

AUGUSTA – On Friday, Governor Paul R. LePage will hold his first education conference at Cony High School in Augusta featuring best practices and innovative reforms with education leaders from across the country.

The Governor will introduce the conference, followed by speakers and panelists from Maine to Florida, including Dr. Tony Bennett, Florida’s commissioner of education. This policy conference is aimed at sharing ideas and models from other states, and is designed for legislators, superintendents, principals, teachers, higher education officials, business leaders and others.

“Education, for me, was a way out of extreme poverty, and I want every child in Maine to have the same opportunity I had to pursue a quality education,” Gov. LePage said. “Every single one of us should be putting our students first, and this conference provides us the chance to engage in discussion that can lead to more successful learning experiences for our children.”

The program will begin at 8:30 a.m. with remarks from Gov. LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, followed by three sessions focusing on multiple pathways to success for students, teacher effectiveness and practices proven in Florida to help students boost test scores, graduation rates and national rankings.

At 1:15 p.m. the conference will conclude with one of the nation’s leading educators, Dr. Tony Bennett. As state superintendent, he led Indiana through its most comprehensive, student-focused education reform initiatives. Focused on greater accountability and freedom, Tony created the nation’s most-expansive school voucher program and saw record-high graduation rates and participation in Advanced Placement courses and exams. Bennett’s leadership quickly earned him a national reputation among government and education leaders. In 2010, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce named Tony Government Leader of the Year and, in 2011, The Fordham Institute named him Education Reform Idol.

Students will have a voice at the conference, as well. Muhamed Nur, a sophomore at Deering High School in Portland, will offer his perspective on today’s education system.

“Students tend to learn more and work harder in classes that they enjoy. But at the same time, they tend of goof off and not learn in classes that they don’t like. While they’re waiting and preparing for the future, they’re not learning today, in the present,” said Nur. “Now, I don’t know what the solution would be to this issue, but that’s up to us, students, teachers, educators and policy government officials.”

Media is welcome to attend the all-day event. Media availability with Dr. Tony Bennett will be from 8 a.m. – 8:20 a.m. Friday. If you are a member of the media and would like to book an interview with Dr. Bennett, please contact Adrienne Bennett at 287-2531.

To learn more about the Governor’s Conference on Education: Putting Students First, visit www.maine.gov/doe/governorsconference/.

WHEN: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., Friday, March 22

WHERE: Cony High School, 60 Pierce Drive, Augusta

One response to “LePage brings education reform to forefront with student-focused conference

  1. Matt Drewette-Card

    I attended the Governor’s Conference on Education at Cony High School, and in light of the comment that the Department of Education, along with the Governor’s Office, will “consider it all,” please consider the following:
    School Choice, as a mindset, is not that controversial… nor is it foreign to Maine. In fact, Superintendent agreements exist throughout the state to permit students to attend schools in districts that they do not reside. These agreements happen because of familial issues, curricular issues, etc., and (as I have been assured by superintendents themselves), this option is not cumbersome.

    What is controversial about School Choice is the notion of opening new schools to directly compete with currently existing schools. Albert Einstein once said that “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” If the state acknowledges that currently existing schools are not functioning as they should, then how does creating new schools based on the same basic principles with a few policy differences actually make a change? It’s still a school, with issues regarding grading, failures, achievement, assessment, truancy, behavior, etc. It’s going to be designed with the same model/structure in mind, but with a few different flourishes. It’s like saying a Honda and a Toyota are completely and totally different. No… they are the same structure, but differ in the details. Maybe new schools isn’t the answer.

    Creating a Charter School, for example, is incredibly costly to the taxpayers and public. Granted, Charter School designers can be creative about how they spend the money, but regardless: new Charter Schools will mean more money spent to building, renovating, outfitting, supplying, and staffing these schools. In times of fiscal crises, we should be engaging in the deep-seeded Maine and New England traditions of looking at what we currently have to make true education reform work. In fact, Maine has already invested in the very tools, resources, and platforms to do School Choice. And we did it more than a decade ago.

    The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is a global beacon of educational innovation. Throughout our state, more schools are turning to technology integration, 1:1 schools, etc. Every teacher in Maine is provided a laptop computer; all 7-8th grade students are provided a laptop computer (or device as the MLTI contract may have changed by the time this comes out). The expansion of the internet has allowed for education and schools to connect and collaborate at NO COST and easier than ever before. Tools like Skype, Google+ Hangouts, GoToMeeting, UStream etc. make it easy to connect visually one person/classroom to another. Therefore, access to education and every classroom in every school throughout the state now possible as every teacher has this capacity right now. Programs like Moodle, EdModo, iTunesU, GoClass, Open Class, Google Sites, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Education Resources (OERs), and Virtual High Schools allow for students to access content, resources, and to extend their learning even if they can’t be in the classroom that day/week… and (mostly) they’re free. MOOCs and OERs are open to everyone globally, so the learning isn’t housed in a room in a building; the learning is out there for anyone at any time. The “Flipped Classroom” model, one that uses technology as the centerpiece to a classroom to have the content accessible at all times, is being discussed and integrated throughout Maine as we speak. Teachers, schools, and districts are working on plans for developing proficiency/competency-based systems of learning that are predicated on notions of mass-customized learning, using the technology we have to provide our students options throughout their learning careers. The MLTI program is an already existing and funded vehicle that can extend to this notion of School Choice, yet at extremely reduced costs to the taxpaying public. Maybe new schools aren’t the answer. Maybe the answer is in simply re-looking at what we already have and focusing on using those tools comprehensively and extensively.

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