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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted in Accountability, Administrative Letters, Administrators, Educators, Elementary School, From the Commissioner, Funding, High School, Legislation, Middle School, Operations, Proficiency-Based Diploma, Standards, Students and Families
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.
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.
Posted in Accountability, Administrators, Data Management, Early Childhood, Educator Effectiveness, Educators, Elementary School, English Language Arts/Literacy, From the Commissioner, High School, Mathematics, Middle School, News & Views, School Improvement, Students and Families
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.
Posted in Accountability, Administrative Letters, Administrators, Educator Effectiveness, Educators, Elementary School, English Language Arts/Literacy, From the Commissioner, High School, Mathematics, Middle School, School Improvement, Students and Families
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.