Author Archives: Commissioner Stephen Bowen

Thank you for putting our students first

This week, I had the honor of presenting the 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year to Karen MacDonald of King Middle School in Portland.

The sixth-and seventh-grade English language arts teacher is described by students as a “gift,” by colleagues as a teacher leader who is “the most consistently innovative,” and by her principal as “relentlessly committed to the success of all of her students.”

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Affirming Maine’s commitment to high standards, implemented locally

As you may have seen in the press, some concerns and questions have been raised recently about the Common Core standards in math and ELA, which the State incorporated into its Learning Results standards in 2011. Many of those concerns seem to stem from suspicions that the Common Core is an attempt by the federal government to influence education policy in the states and, as a consequence, that the adoption of these standards will diminish Maine’s longstanding tradition of local control as it regards things like curricula and instructional approaches. Continue reading

Planning for a seamless transition

In the days since I announced I would be leaving Maine DOE to become the national Director of Innovation for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), I’ve received calls and notes of support from many in Maine’s learning community, for which I am very grateful. Thank you.

The decision to accept the opportunity offered by CCSSO was the most difficult of my career, and hearing from you was a reminder of why I’ve felt so honored this past two and a half years to be Maine’s Commissioner of Education. I can move on assured that the reforms that are underway to improve educational outcomes for all students will continue to move forward, because of your commitment – and that of the incredible team here at DOE – to our kids.

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A letter from Commissioner Bowen: A new opportunity

It has been a great honor to serve students and schools as the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education for the past two and a half years. In that time, we’ve made incredible progress in moving from plan to practice our Education Evolving strategic plan to restructure Maine’s education system around our students.  Continue reading

What does approved ESEA waiver mean for your school?

On Monday, we announced that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Maine’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver.

Maine earned the waiver – which can be viewed at www.maine.gov/doe/accountability – because we developed an ambitious yet achievable plan to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps and increase the quality of instruction. As a result, Maine will cut in half the percentage of non-proficient students at each school over the next six years. Continue reading

Opportunities for sharing your school success story

Following the launch of the Maine School Performance Grading System, we’ve spent our time reaching out to underperforming and at-risk schools to learn more about their challenges and the supports they’d like Maine DOE to provide.

What we continue to hear is that schools want to learn from other Maine schools that are like them. In the words of one school leader, “Tell us what’s working in other places with similar populations and budget concerns.” That’s the thinking behind our Center for Best Practice, which provides success stories (and videos) from schools in our state implementing learner-centered instructional practices. Continue reading

Successful schools use data to focus improvement efforts

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 21st Annual Model Schools Conference down in Washington, D.C. Put on by the International Center for Leadership in Education, this year’s conference provided teachers and educational leaders, including many from Maine, with practical ideas for increasing student achievement and ensuring college and career readiness in an age of declining resources and higher standards.

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Law provides educator evaluation and support system development guidance in absence of rule

As many of you know, since LD 1858, “An Act To Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership,” was enacted in April 2012, the Department has been working to establish rules to guide you in your local development of the now required teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.

It is with great frustration that I report to you that while the 125th Legislature unanimously supported this initiative to implement a fair, meaningful educator evaluation system, legislators this session have failed to reach consensus – specifically around fulfilling the law’s directive that measurements of student learning and growth be a significant factor in the determination of the rating of an educator. As a result, the Department will need to start the process of adopting Chapter 180 over again in the fall in order to submit a provisionally adopted rule to the Legislature in January 2014. Continue reading

Enacted FY2013-14 General Purpose Aid for local schools

After months of deliberations, the biennial budget has been enacted following the 126th Legislature’s override of Governor LePage’s veto yesterday afternoon. Based on this enactment, updated school subsidy printouts (ED279s) are now available at: www.maine.gov/doe/eps/.

Some key factors in enacted funding level to note: Continue reading

We’re serious about our support

Congratulations on completing another successful school year.

I was honored to spend much of the past week connecting with many of Maine’s education leaders at the 102nd Annual Superintendent’s Conference in Northport. For those who attended, I hope the transformational leadership development combined with the transitional support to help your schools move to a proficiency-based diploma energized you as much as it did me. Just as our potential to graduate every student prepared is great, so are the stakes – as was made quite evident by the CEOs who spoke during Sunday’s session about the core competencies the opportunities of Maine’s future will demand.

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