CARMEL – Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen commended regional sharing of resources as well as professional development efforts at Indian Township School in Princeton and Caravel Middle School (RSU 87/MSAD 23) in Carmel, which he visited Thursday and Friday as part of his Promising Practices Tour.
The Commissioner toured various PreK-8 classrooms at Indian Township School, one of Maine’s three tribal schools, on Thursday. Kindergarteners demonstrated to Commissioner Bowen how they use technology to learn numbers and letters through the school’s one-to-one iPad program for PreK-3 students.
“We’re always looking for ways to increase student engagement, and Indian Township achieves that through their iPad program,” said Commissioner Bowen. “The tablets have resulted in attendance rates improving because kids are able to move at their own pace—and quite frankly they can’t wait to get their hands on the technology.”
The Commissioner later saw students working on a song in the native language to be performed at an upcoming celebration ceremony. “The school seems to be the heart of the community and serves as a primary vehicle by which the native culture is passed on to the next generation,” Bowen said.
Indian Township also has worked regionally with other tribal schools on curriculum and professional development, which has contributed to cost savings and to better aligning the tribal schools’ instructional practices.
Bowen continued his tour at Caravel Middle School on Friday morning. As with several other school visits on the Commissioner’s tour, Caravel was designated as a school in need of improvement in 2008 and has since improved its academic program with the help of funding through Title I School Improvement and technical assistance from the Maine DOE and Title I School Improvement specialists.
Caravel used part of its funding to send school leaders and select teachers to formative assessment training in Portland, Ore. Attendees returned with new ideas about facilitating student success, which they shared with their colleagues and beyond. Principal Rhonda Sperrey and staff have provided technical assistance to other Title I CIPS schools across the state, modeling effective strategies and practices aimed at increasing student achievement.
Over the past few years, the school has implemented professional learning communities as well as proficiency-based grading and reporting practices, and Sperrey said she notices a difference in engagement as well as school culture. Within one year, Caravel has experienced a 65 percent reduction in discipline and suspensions.
“I heard somebody say that you’re either an improving school or a declining school…and if you’re staying stagnant, you’re declining,” said Sperrey. “Caravel will always be in a state of improvement because our kids are changing every year.”
This two-day leg of the Promising Practices Tour closely follows Governor Paul R. LePage’s and Commissioner Bowen’s release of Maine’s School Performance Grading System last week. Indian Township School did not receive a grade because it falls under the Maine Bureau of Indian Education, and Caravel Middle School earned a C.
The Commissioner witnessed the promising practices both schools have underway, which he expects will continue to improve their proficiency and performance.
Bowen’s Promising Practices Tour will take him to all nine superintendent regions in the state before the end of the school year. He plans to see the innovative practices schools are implementing that are showing promise and that are helping to forward the priorities in the Maine DOE strategic plan and the Governor’s ABC Plan for education.