Category Archives: From the Commissioner

New Commissioner, same commitment to supporting schools

Portrait of Jim Rier, Acting Commissioner of the Maine DOE

Governor LePage named Jim Rier Acting Commissioner of the Maine DOE.

Earlier this week, Governor Paul R. LePage appointed me as Acting Education Commissioner. It is an honor to be called upon to serve the people of Maine in this new role, especially our students and educators. While the Department’s Commissioner has changed, our commitments have not.

I look forward to working with the Governor and the talented team at Maine DOE to continue the work begun under former Commissioner Bowen to transform our education system so that it truly serves all Maine students and prepares them for success after they leave our schools. Central to that is the Department focusing on supporting schools in their improvement efforts, and I will be in touch later this month with more specifics on what Maine DOE’s system of supports will look like and how it will help you.

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Message to administrators on superintendents’ agreements

Dear Superintendents,

Last fall, former Commissioner Stephen Bowen sent you a letter on the topic of superintendents’ agreements. In that letter, he explained why he has tended to overturn the superintendent transfer decisions that are appealed to him by Maine families more often than not, in the hope that it would make his thinking on the issue clearer to you.

Since then, the issue of superintendents’ agreements has emerged again, and two bills were passed during this last legislative session that amend the current law in important ways, effective Oct. 9. Continue reading

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 – 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

Notice of change in law regarding Superintendent Agreements

The statute regulating Superintendent Agreements has been amended to include the following language: “A transfer approved under this subsection may be made only to a receiving school administrative unit that operates a public school that includes the grade level of the student whose parent requests the transfer.”

As a result of this new law, a transfer granted so the student can be tuitioned to a private school will no longer be allowed. 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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