Category Archives: From the Commissioner

Proficiency-based diploma extension applications now available to SAUs

The following Priority Notice was distributed to superintendents Tuesday, July 22.

Dear Superintendents,

Discussions at the Commissioners Conference in June yielded valuable input for the diploma extensions application process. In the weeks following the conference, three school administrative units in Maine agreed to pilot the application process by completing the extension request best suited to their level of preparedness to award a proficiency-based diploma.

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American Institutes for Research selected to administer Smarter Balanced assessments

The following Priority Notice was distributed to educators on Monday, July 7.

Dear Educators,

Earlier this year, the Department made clear our commitment to rigorous standards and aligned assessments. To that end, I wanted to let you know we have just selected the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to administer our Smarter Balanced aligned State assessments in grades 3-8 and grade 11 for the 2014-15 school year.

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Materials released in advance of Commissioner’s Conference

The following Priority Notice was distributed to school superintendents today in advance of the 103rd Annual Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents:

Dear Superintendents,

We look forward to working with you next week during the 103rd Annual Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents, scheduled to begin at noon on Monday, June 23 at Point Lookout in Northport.

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Adult education graduation truly a new beginning

Over the past month, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at not one, but three, adult education graduations. Having a small part in the celebration of the huge accomplishments of these unique students has been one of the greatest honors I’ve had as your Commissioner of Education.

Earning a high school diploma requires incredible hard work and perseverance, even under the best of circumstances. But the best of circumstances isn’t something many adult education students have known when it comes to their schooling.

Though they don’t make the front pages like their traditional high school or collegiate counterparts, the stories of the graduates I have seen receive their high school diploma or its equivalent through adult education have been especially humbling and serve as a reminder of adult education’s critical role in our communities.

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Human resources most integral to school improvement

This week, the Department had the honor of announcing it was awarding $1.6 million in School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding to James Otis Kaler Elementary.

The South Portland school intends to use this State support to raise student proficiency in math and reading by 10 percent annually over the next three years by better supporting students, enhancing educator effectiveness and increasing parent/community engagement.

The commitment to school improvement is not new to Kaler. In 2011, a school-based renewal effort was launched, but meaningful headway has yet to be made. The school received an “F” on its State report card the last two years, and just 38.5 percent of its students are proficient in math and 44.4 percent in reading.

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Maine higher ed institutions endorse proficiency

It’s high school graduation season and while the commitment of Maine K-12 public education system to proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2018 is clear, one of the questions I’m most frequently asked is whether colleges share that belief in the great value of this approach.

Actions like the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s transition to proficiency-based learning and college acceptances of graduates from Maine schools that have already gone to proficiency-based education reflect higher education’s support, which is not surprising given this shift ensures greater college and career readiness.

But Maine students and their families rightfully want more guarantees that post-secondary institutions will understand and embrace their proficiency-based diplomas.  

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Extension options ensure proficiency-based diploma done right

There is perhaps no greater opportunity to ensure Maine students graduate college and career ready than the transition to proficiency-based diplomas now underway in our state.

That’s why our Department supported the 2012 law making it mandatory that schools award these diplomas starting in 2018 and why we have worked hard in the two years since to be a resource to districts as they make this significant shift. It is also why earlier this week, the Department previewed the options it was offering Maine school administrative units (SAUs) who need more time in meeting this requirement.

The decision to use the authority I have under a provision in Maine’s Basic School Approval Law to grant school units waivers from the proficiency-based diploma requirement through July 1, 2020 was not one I took lightly.

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Maine DOE provides flexibility to SAUs to ensure implementation of proficiency-based diploma

The following Priority Notice was distributed to superintendents today, affirming the Department’s commitment to the state’s students being awarded diplomas based on proficiency and previewing the flexibility it was providing to districts in meeting a requirement to do so by 2018.

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Maine DOE strengthens educator effectiveness

Following several changes by the Maine Legislature, I am pleased to say that the Department has finally adopted Rule Chapter 180, which establishes standards and procedures for the implementation of performance evaluation and professional growth systems (known as PE/PG systems) that each school administrative unit (SAU) is required to have implemented by the 2015-16 school year. PE/PG systems for teachers and principals improve educator effectiveness by establishing clear expectations for professional practice and student learning/growth and providing actionable feedback and support to help educators meet them.

The Department outlined the changes it made through the public rulemaking process last fall in a previous Commissioner’s Update dispatch. It is important to note that during the Legislature’s review this spring of Maine DOE’s provisionally-adopted rule, there was agreement that student growth measures should be a significant factor in determining a teacher or principal effectiveness rating and that local school boards have the authority and responsibility to approve or reject the stakeholder group’s proposed PE/PG system plan. Additionally, the Legislature maintained that the Maine DOE will still have to approve PE/PG system plans and that there are contingencies if local stakeholder groups can’t reach consensus, including adoption of a State model.

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Report cards can provide learning opportunities

In a few hours, the 2014 school report cards will be made available to the public via the Department’s Education Data Warehouse.

Meanwhile, I am spending the day visiting elementary schools in South Hiram and Gorham that have each seen a two-letter grade gain since last year’s report card was released. The grading system certainly can’t be credited for those increases, but it has helped to surface success stories that can inform the improvement work happening at so many of our schools.

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