Category Archives: From the Commissioner

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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Report cards, improvement resources released to Maine schools

The following Priority Notice was distributed by the Department today to school and district administrators to let them know their 2014 school report cards were available for review, as was a series of school improvement resources provided by the Maine DOE:

Dear Superintendents and Principals,

On Thursday, our Department will release the 2014 school report cards to the public.

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Appreciation for our teachers, this week and always

This Teacher Appreciation Week, I had the honor on behalf of the Department and the LePage Administration of recognizing the first-ever Maine County Teachers of the Year.

Maine students are being inspired each day by the effective, engaging educators we are fortunate to have in so many of our classrooms and the 16 teachers named this week are among the best of the best.

I look forward to recognizing one of them as Maine’s 2015 Teacher of the Year this fall, though I believe all of them are certainly more than deserving of that distinction. I also want to thank Hannaford, Geiger, Bangor Savings Bank, Unum, the Maine Board of Education, Educate Maine and the Maine Teacher of the Year Association for their tireless support of the Maine State Teacher of the Year Program.

As I often say, there is no greater calling than preparing our children with the skills they’ll need to be successful after they leave our schools. Yet as teachers know, theirs is a calling that is increasingly becoming more challenging, given the changing needs of students and our commitment to centering our entire education system around each individual’s learning styles and speeds.

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Registration, agenda available for Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents

The following Priority Notice was distributed by the Department this week to superintendents to invite them to the 103rd Annual Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents:

Dear Superintendents,

The implementation of systems that support proficiency-based diplomas and educator evaluation necessitate some of the most significant shifts our state’s public education system has ever undertaken. The Maine DOE has and will continue to provide resources and clarity to benefit your locally led transition work, including through our upcoming 103rd Annual Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents. Registration is now open for the conference, which is scheduled for Monday, June 23 through Wednesday, June 25 at Point Lookout in Northport.

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Preparing for the 2014 school report cards

One year ago today, the Department released the first school report cards under the Maine School Performance Grading System. Using a familiar A-F scale, existing public data, and measuring all students and all schools, the grades provide Maine’s first true statewide accountability system. As importantly, our formula acknowledges that many students arrive in our schools already behind, and equally credits student proficiency and student growth, including how elementary schools help their most struggling 25 percent of students.

That roll-out sparked a difficult yet critical statewide conversation on school quality and drove thousands of Mainers to the Department’s website and new Education Data Warehouse to learn more about their local school’s performance and how it compared to others. While on an average day our website at draws around 8,000 unique views, in the three days surrounding the launch of the school report cards, the site received more than 200,000.

We’ll be releasing this year’s school grades late the week of May 12. While the formula for the grades remains unchanged so as to allow for comparison from one year to the next, you will notice some differences on the report cards and how the Department rolls them out. We believe these improvements will allow the conversation to move beyond the merits of school grading and the validity of the data used so the focus can be where it should: celebrating successes in our schools and surfacing areas needing more support.

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Subsidy checks reflect MaineCare Seed adjustments

Dear Superintendents and Business Managers,

I am writing to let you know that the remaining 2013-14 subsidy checks for General Purpose Aid for Local Schools will reflect additional adjustments for MaineCare Seed payments paid by the Maine DOE on behalf of school administrative units (SAUs) for the following:

  • 2014 Quarter 1 and 2 MaineCare Payment adjustments
  • Corrections to 2013 Quarter 4 MaineCare Payment adjustments

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