Category Archives: From the Commissioner

Extension applications show Maine’s commitment to successful proficiency-based diploma implementation

Earlier this year, the Department released six options by which districts could apply for extensions to fully implementing systems to support the awarding of proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2018.

I continue to be appreciative of the positive feedback we regularly receive in response to offering that flexibility. Many educators and district leaders have commented that while they had initially been uncertain about the extension application process, it ended up being a valuable opportunity for reflection that helped focus local efforts moving forward to best ensure quality implementation.

But nothing has been more encouraging than seeing the high number of extension applications and confirmations of readiness that the Department received by the Oct. 18 final deadline. Continue reading

Planning for success: 2014-15 State assessment

The following Priority Notice was distributed on Tuesday, Oct. 28 regarding Maine’s plans for a successful administration of the 2014-15 State assessment.

Dear Maine Educators, Students and Families,

This October marks the first in recent memory during which Maine students in Grades 3-8 are not taking their State assessment. Instead, next spring students in those grades or in their third year of high school will take the Smarter Balanced aligned assessment that Maine will now use for State and federal accountability purposes. Continue reading

Spreading the facts about Ebola

Last week, some Maine educators traveled to Dallas, Texas to participate in an assessment conference. Given the national attention currently on that city because of the three confirmed cases of Ebola there, some have raised concerns in the districts these educators are returning to.

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Reminder to superintendents surveys due

The following reminder was sent via Priority Notice to all Maine superintendents on Friday, Oct. 17.

Dear Superintendents,

I am writing to remind you to please complete two surveys that will greatly inform the work of the Commission to Strengthen the Adequacy and Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula, established by the Maine Legislature earlier this year.

In partnership with the Maine Education Policy Research Institute (MEPRI), the Department is compiling information for the Commission about the current use of instructional coaches and the physical space, facility capacity and operations of districts as it relates to existing and expanding preschool programs. Because the Commission begins meeting this coming Monday, I encourage you to submit your responses today, though surveys completed after this deadline will be provided to the Commission for consideration at its future meetings.  Continue reading

Learning through technology educators

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend two full days at the annual conference of the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine (ACTEM). To say I was impressed and inspired by what I experienced would be an understatement. Maine has long been looked to as a national leader when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom and the energy and expertise I saw in the hundreds of technology educators at the conference proved why. Continue reading

Celebrating Maine’s 2015 Teacher of the Year

Last week I had the honor of announcing Jennifer Dorman as the 2015 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Dorman, who dreamed of being a teacher since her very first day of Kindergarten, has been a special educator in Somerset County schools for two decades, most recently at Skowhegan Area Middle School (SAMS) where she is a seventh-and eighth-grade special education and reading intervention teacher.

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Superintendents surveyed on use of instructional coaches

The following Priority Notice requesting participation in a survey on the use of instructional coaches was distributed to all Maine superintendents on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Dear Superintendents,

As you know, the Maine DOE is committed to ensuring that every learner has the opportunity to be successful. Part of that is ensuring our schools have the resources they need to best support all of their students, including those who are economically disadvantaged.   Continue reading

All students, all standards but different demonstrations of proficiency

As Maine moves toward a proficiency-based education system that will ensure students graduate from our high schools having mastered State learning standards, I am often asked what this expectation means for our nearly 30,000 students with disabilities.

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Showing up to promote school attendance

It’s been said that the first step to success is showing up and nowhere is that more true than in our schools.

Chronic absenteeism – defined as missing 10 percent of the school year (18 days here in Maine) – increases achievement gaps and decreases student outcomes. Absences add up quickly. In fact, students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade and are more likely to have poor attendance in later grades. By middle and high school, chronic absence is a proven early warning sign that a student will not graduate on time or even at all. Chronic absenteeism especially hurts children with disabilities or from low income families who are both more likely to miss school and who often lack the resources to make up for lost time in the classroom.

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Transparent, inclusive process will improve Maine’s standards

Earlier this week, a 24-person panel came together in Augusta to begin reviewing the state’s math and English language arts standards.

The panel’s membership – which includes parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, college professors and business leaders – is diverse, as are their perspectives. Over the next six weeks, they’ll assess the rigor and clarity of each standard and make suggestions where improvement is needed.

I personally asked them to participate in this critical process because learning standards underlie much of our work in the coming years to transform education in Maine, from the awarding of proficiency-based diplomas to the implementation of educator evaluations and next generation assessment systems. If changes are needed, the time to make them is now. Continue reading