Category Archives: Commissioner’s Updates

Commissioner’s Update – April 16, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

The Maine DOE is encouraging educators to attend the Fostering Financial Education in Maine Schools conference on May 1 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

The conference, which is hosted by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, is intended for educators, administrators and counselors who are interested in improving the financial capability of Maine students. The event will feature free financial education resources for K-12 and college-age students with a variety of workshops presented by classroom teachers and financial literacy experts.

As part of Maine DOE’s ongoing efforts to support financial education, the Department’s Social Studies Specialist Kristie Littlefield will be conducting a session.

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Governor LePage supports SEALSfit Program, allocates $16,000 from contingency fund

Governor Paul R. LePage announced this month he is allocating $16,000 to the SEALSfit youth leadership program. | More

SAT irregularity reports due April 17

The College Board is reminding Test Center Supervisors at Maine schools that participated in the April 15 SAT School Day Administration and have their make-up date on April 29, that they must submit any irregularity reports to ETS by Friday, April 17. | More

2015 Educator Talent Pool recommendations due May 1

The Maine DOE is accepting recommendations for the 2015 Maine Educator Talent Pool through May 1. | More

Department announces reporting requirement, resources to help Special Purpose Private Schools support pathways to proficiency

The Maine DOE is providing the state’s Special Purpose Private Schools (SPPS) with new resources so their students are better positioned on the pathway to proficiency. | More

Webinar to overview School Improvement Grant process for eligible schools

The Maine DOE has submitted its federal application for continued School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding. If approved for the sixth straight year, the Department would receive funding to distribute to help the state’s most struggling schools. | More

Maine DOE trains 28 districts in language of science

The Maine DOE ESL/Bilingual Programs recently provided training for 28 school districts in developing and using language effectively to make connections between science language and science concepts. | More

May 20 workshop to focus on supporting young children with autism

The Maine DOE is encouraging educators to attend a May 20 workshop entitled Language and Communication for Young Children with Autism. | More

 

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Commissioner’s Update – April 9, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

AUGUSTA – Maine’s high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high, as has the percentage of students who are either economically disadvantaged or have a disability and are earning their diploma in four years.

According to newly released data from the Maine Department of Education, 86.48 percent of the students who entered the ninth grade in the fall of 2010 graduated on time in 2014. That’s up just slightly from 86.36 percent in 2013 and well above the 80.3 percent graduation rate reached in 2009-2010 when the current calculation method was introduced.

In announcing the rising rate, Maine’s Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin said he is especially encouraged to see the state make such progress in narrowing achievement gaps though he urged more work must be done.

“All children can learn and deserve equal opportunity to do so in our schools,” Desjardin said. “I want to thank Maine’s educators for their hard work in supporting an increasing number of historically academically disadvantaged students find success. Moving forward, we must continue to improve both our graduation rate and the value of the diplomas awarded by our schools so that every student leaves with the foundation they need to achieve their full potential.”

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Maine student artwork selected for MLTI screensavers

Twenty-one student artists will have an audience of more than 70,000 students and educators for their artwork starting this fall. | More

Maine DOE releases online public preschool application

The Maine DOE has created a new online application form that will make it easier for districts to apply for State approval of new or expanding public preschool programs. | More

Maine DOE seeks surrogate parents to support students with disabilities

The Maine DOE is seeking volunteers to serve as surrogate parents for children with disabilities in educational matters. | More

Maine DOE helps expand internet access in rural Washington County

Maine DOE’s Learning Through Technology Team was in Washington County last week to lend its support for the “Check-out the Internet” event at Cherryfield Free Public Library. | More

Department offers webinars in advance of ELL assessment

The Maine DOE is providing two webinars this spring to assist schools as they prepare for the 2015-16 administration of the computer-based English language proficiency assessment, ACCESS for ELLs 2.0. | More

Migrant Education Program’s Blueberry Harvest School wins state environmental award

The Blueberry Harvest School has been named the winner of the Maine Environmental Education Association Excellence in Environmental Education Program Award. | More

Maine team drives away champions of national bus roadeo

Lisa Gadway and Gregg McGoff from the Fairfield-based MSAD 49 recently earned first place for their performance in the 18th Annual National Special Needs Team Safety Roadeo. | More

April 13 webinar overviews federal student privacy laws

The Maine DOE is encouraging district staff to review the Privacy Technical Assistance Center’s latest guidance document: Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Model Terms of Service during a webinar on Monday, April 13. | More

Maine DOE provides nutrition equipment assistance

The Department is encouraging schools to apply for their share of the $75,542 that Maine has been awarded in food service equipment assistance. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – April 2, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

Governor Paul R. LePage and Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy President and CEO Liza McFadden honored 14 teen mentors with Excellence Awards in leadership and service during a recognition ceremony at the Blaine House this week. Students mentoring in the Foundation’s Teen Trendsetters™ program assist first through third graders with reading during weekly tutoring sessions.

“I am proud of these students who serve as positive role models and leaders for their mentees,” said Governor LePage. “Mentoring at any age during a student’s career can lead to a lifelong commitment to helping others and their community.”

The Teen Trendsetters Excellence Award is given to mentors who provide outstanding leadership and service, particularly with helping their mentees read on grade level. After successfully piloting Teen Trendsetters in Windham, Maine, during 2012 and 2013, the Barbara Bush Foundation this past year expanded the program to 20 schools throughout Maine.

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New early childhood learning and development standards released by Maine DOE, DHHS

The Maine Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have released Maine’s Early Learning and Development Standards (MELDS), which outline what children should know and be able to do by the end of preschool. | More

Maine DOE opens registration for 30th annual school wellness conference

Maine schools are invited to attend the 30th Annual Maine DOE Schoolsite Health Promotion & Wellness Conference from Wednesday, June 24 through Friday, June 26 at Sugarloaf. | More

Suicide prevention conference scheduled for May 7

The Maine DOE is encouraging those working to prevent suicide in the state’s schools to consider attending the one-day Maine Suicide Prevention Program’s Annual Beyond the Basics in Suicide Prevention conference on May 7 in Portland. | More

MPA names top assistant principals

The Maine Principals’ Association has announced its 2015 Maine Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year at both the elementary and secondary school levels. | More

Maine DOE regional workshops support math educators

The Maine DOE recently concluded a series of eight regional, full-day workshop sessions across the state intended to support instruction in mathematics and make connections to the State assessment. | More

Students prepare for business careers at state DECA conference

More than 100 students gathered last month for the Maine DECA 47th State Career Development Conference. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – March 26, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

The Maine DOE is partnering with Common Sense Media to provide free workshops throughout the state this spring to help educators harness the positive power of technology.

Learning how to use media and technology wisely and safely is an essential skill for life and learning in the 21st century. The two workshops offered through the Department’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative will help educators guide students to think critically, act responsibly and interact positively in the digital world and to discover high quality resources. The hands-on sessions will be led by Common Sense Media experts and contact hours will be issued.

Skills To Help You Discover, Use, and Share Great Digital Tools for Learning Through Graphite will help educators use Graphite, a free service by Common Sense Media, to discover high quality apps, websites and games for students; evaluate the learning potential of these tools; curate tools into useful collections; innovate by reimagining lessons to seamlessly weave in technology using a framework called App Flows; and collaborate with other teachers by sharing best practices for using digital tools in the classroom.

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Maine DOE reminds schools of SAT registration deadline

The Maine DOE is reminding schools of the April 1 deadline for registering students for the upcoming school day administration of the SAT. | More

Department provides guidance on use of IEPs in educator effectiveness benchmarks

The Maine DOE is offering guidance about the use of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in establishing educator effectiveness benchmarks as a result of recent rule changes. | More

Maine DOE developing preschool health screening resources

Maine DOE is planning to provide guidance and support by late spring to assist school nurses in conducting health, hearing and vision screening of four-year-olds entering public preschool programs in the 2015-16 school year. | More

Maine DOE invites educators to Summer Literacy Institute

The Maine DOE is encouraging teams of educators to attend its 2015 Summer Literacy Institute. | More

Maine FFA students participate in State House ag day

Maine FFA (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) student State Officers participated in Maine Agriculture Day at the State House earlier this month. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – March 19, 2015

From Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin

This week, thousands of Maine students began the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy developed by Smarter Balanced. More than a decade after we began putting technology in the hands of Maine students and teachers to support their 21st century learning and teaching, our state is finally using this familiar environment to assess what students know and are able to do.

From what you’ve told us, the first week of online testing has been a success. In the words of one district: “So far. So good.” Schools reported no major problems and expressed appreciation that our Department’s staff had quick answers to any questions asked. 

I’m glad things are getting off to such a good start because I believe in the incredible potential of this new online assessment and I know how hard so many of you are working to see that potential fully realized. On behalf of Maine students, thank you.

Unlike the bubble tests of the past, this new assessment measures higher-order thinking and how students actually apply the skills they should be learning and need for 21 century college and career success. Its adaptive abilities – meaning questions and their difficulty are adjusted based on a participant’s previous answers  –  helps teachers better help their students by more accurately pinpointing individual student strengths and weaknesses. Results, available in weeks rather than months, more quickly inform instruction and interventions. Universal tools, accommodations and designated supports like the ability to highlight or have the text read aloud, are available thanks to the online delivery. These integrated features alleviate test-taking anxiety and better support the unique needs of each student, especially those with disabilities. And the lengthened 11-week test window gives schools more administration flexibility and creates less stress for students, even though the assessment actually requires significantly fewer hours to administer than the NECAP.

That said, the administration of this new assessment won’t be perfect.

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Maine DOE overviews updated educator evaluation expectations

Maine’s educator evaluation expectations have changed as a result of legislative action initiated by the Department to ensure the state could maintain flexibility from burdensome federal requirements. A summary of changes to Title 20-A and Rule Chapter 180 as a result of the enactment of LD 692 and the expected enactment of LD 38, are outlined here. | More

Department provides resources in advance of science assessment opening on May 4

The Maine DOE is sharing resources with schools to support their preparations for the annual statewide science assessment, which will run May 4-22. | More

Maine schools selected for personalized learning initiative

Twenty New England public schools in the League of Innovative Schools including five from Maine have been selected by the New England Secondary School Consortium and the Great Schools Partnership to participate in a new initiative. | More

Maine DOE offers resources for increasing rigor in science education

Science researchers and educators from Maine and across the country convened in Chicago last week to share tools and discuss policy to support effective science instruction. | More

Department provides support to ESEA monitor schools through webinar

The Maine DOE has posted a new webinar intended to provide support and guidance to Maine districts with schools recently given “monitor” status under the state’s federally required accountability system. | More

Regional meetings scheduled on improving school attendance

Promoting school attendance is the agenda for two regional meetings this month sponsored by Count ME In. | More

Maine Department of Labor offers technical assistance to support youth employment

The Maine Department of Labor (DOL) is offering increased assistance around youth employment. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – March 12, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

Registration is now open for online Advanced Placement courses provided at no cost to the state’s public school students by the Maine Department of Education.

As part of its commitment to providing digital learning opportunities to all Maine students, the Department’s AP4ALL program allows all publicly funded high school students access to the year-long online Advanced Placement courses and covers the cost of associated books and materials.

The courses can help prepare students to take AP exams, which many post-secondary institutions including those in the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System typically offer college credit for.

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Preliminary FY 2016 State subsidy printouts updated for Adult Ed actual counts

The Department has updated FY16 (2015-16 school year) preliminary State subsidy printouts, known as ED 279s, to reflect newly reported Adult Education actual counts. | More

Maine DOE posts test security materials

The Maine DOE is reminding administrators of the new online Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy developed by Smarter Balanced that any unusual events that occur during the March 16-May 29 testing window must be documented. | More

Maine DOE provides proficiency-based IEP goals writing workshop

The Maine DOE Office of Special Services is offering free trainings throughout the state in April to support school districts in writing proficiency-based Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. | More

Maine DOE to apply for School Improvement Grant funding, seeks public comment on related waiver

The Maine DOE will again apply for federal School Improvement Grant funding that the Department would distribute to help the state’s most struggling schools close achievement gaps. | More

Maine DOE invites schools to Maine Emergency Preparedness Conference

The Department is encouraging Maine schools to attend the free 2015 Maine Partners in Emergency Preparedness Conference next month in Augusta. The conference will include an all-day track on Tuesday, April 21 focusing on school security and safety. | More

Maine DOE shares federal guidance on effectively communicating with students with disabilities

The Maine DOE is encouraging districts to review new guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services regarding how to more effectively communicate with public schools students with hearing, vision or speech disabilities. | More

Bonny Eagle, Baxter Academy robotics team win big at out-of-state contests

Robotics teams from Bonny Eagle High School and Baxter Academy for Technology and Science have brought big awards back to Maine. The two teams will join dozens of other top robotics teams from across the Northeast to complete in the Pine Tree District competition that opens today in Lewiston. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – March 5, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

With the window for giving the new online Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy developed by Smarter Balanced opening in less than two weeks, we want to make sure you have the resources you need to feel prepared for a successful test administration.

On our assessment website, you can find an extensive library of administration materials. With so many supports available, we wanted to draw your attention to a few including:

  • The Online Test Administration Manual, which includes information on the rules of online testing and ensuring security, testing time and recommended order of administration, establishing appropriate testing conditions, tasks to complete prior to testing, details of the actual testing administration, scripts for Test Administrators, and how to respond to any testing improprieties, irregularities and/or breaches.
  • Our Frequently Asked Questions, which provide answers to common queries on topics like roles for testing, participation requirements, paper-pencil vs. computer-adaptive testing, accessibility and much more.
  • A guide specifically outlining supports for English learners as well as the test directions translated into 17 different languages.

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UMPI and MSSM partner to help high school students earn associate degrees

PRESQUE ISLE — Beginning this fall, students attending the Maine School of Science and Mathematics will be able to take advantage of the most comprehensive early-college pathway in Maine. | More

Department releases updated IEP Procedural Manual

The Maine DOE has released an updated Maine State Individualized Education Program (IEP) Procedural Manual which can be found here on its website. | More

Save the date for Maine DOE special services webinar

The Maine DOE Office of Special Services is encouraging special education administrators to save the date for the Department’s upcoming annual training on the Local Entitlement Application.  | More

Department continues to seek feedback on ESEA waiver in advance of renewal

In preparation for Maine’s application for a renewal of its existing ESEA waiver, the Department continues to seek feedback on how the State’s current accountability and improvement system is serving Maine’s students and schools. | More

Alternate assessment registration continues

Registration remains underway for the National Center and State Collaborative Alternate Assessment (NCSC) that will be used to assess students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in mathematics and English language arts. | More

Applications open for Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

Applications are now being accepted to participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) in the 2015-16 school year. | More

Professional standards released for food service staff

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a final rule establishing national professional standards for all school nutrition employees. | More

Maine students to compete in state poetry finals next Wednesday

The 10 Maine students who will compete next week in the 2015 Maine State Finals for Poetry Out Loud – a National Poetry Recitation Contest – have been named. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – February 26, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

Earlier this week, the Department reached out to Maine educators to detail our efforts to better support the continued quality and manageable implementation of key initiatives that will improve teaching and learning in Maine, including the administration of new assessments, educator evaluation and the awarding of proficiency-based diplomas.

To reiterate, as part of our ongoing efforts to support meaningful implementation of new systems that improve the college and career readiness of Maine students, the Department is committed to:

  • Providing $4 million to support districts with proficiency-based diploma transition costs
  • Increasing training and assistance to ensure success of new online assessment
  • Not issuing A-F school report cards in 2015 but resuming doing so in 2016
  • Keeping the field apprised of legislation that could extend PEPG system pilots another year
  • Providing $5 million for professional development to support local evaluation system development

The Department hopes this increased funding and flexibility helps to alleviate anxiety in the field so educators can focus on what is most important: helping all Maine students reach their full potential.

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Acting Education Commissioner to visit Baxter Academy Friday

Maine’s Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin will visit the Baxter Academy for Technology & Science on Friday to see how the innovative new public school is engaging its students through hands-on group learning. The visit marks the first time a sitting education commissioner has toured a Maine public charter school. | More

Maine DOE reminds schools of roof snow load hazard

The Maine DOE is reminding districts that the heavy snowfall this winter may be straining school roofs. | More

MEA Science Alternate (PAAP) registration ends March 1

Registration for this year’s Personalized Alternate Assessment Portfolio (PAAP) closes this Sunday, March 1 at 5 p.m.  | More

Registration underway for alternate assessment for math, ELA

Registrations are currently being collected from special educations directors by the Maine DOE for the National Center and State Collaborative Alternate Assessment (NCSC) that will be used to assess mathematics and English language arts. | More

Maine DOE seeks Visual and Performing Arts Specialist

The Maine DOE is seeking applicants to fill the position of Visual and Performing Arts Specialist. | More

Department offers special services related guidance

The Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services is reminding all contracted service providers who provide services to children that they must undergo a Criminal History Record Check. This includes transportation providers such as cab drivers. | More

Maine DOE shares guidance related to NCAA student eligibility

The Maine DOE is offering guidance to Maine schools related to the expectations of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for courses. | More

Comments sought on Maine’s IDEA Part B application

The Maine DOE is seeking comments from the public on its annual application for federal funds under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which covers services for preschool- and school-age children with disabilities. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – February 19, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

The Maine DOE has released preliminary FY 2016 (2015-16 school year) State subsidy printouts, known as ED 279s, on its website at www.maine.gov/doe/eps/.

These preliminary amounts are based on Governor LePage’s proposed two-year budget that increases funding for Maine schools and students and assumes State payment directly to public charter schools as proposed in LD 235.  Specifically, the Governor’s FY16 budget proposal includes $964.1 million for general purpose aid for Maine schools – an increase of $20.3 million over the $943.8 appropriated by the Legislature for FY 15 – and $966.3 million for FY17 – an increase of $22.5 million over appropriated FY15 funding.

The proposed budget would bring the subsidy provided by the State per pupil to $5,334 in FY16 and $5,389 in FY17, an increase of nearly 17 percent since the Governor took office in 2011 and per pupil State funding was $4,619.

The subsidy amounts for FY 2016 contained in the preliminary ED 279s do not represent final action of the 127th Maine Legislature and should therefore only be used as initial guidance in informing local budget preparations.

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Maine recognizes Career and Technical Education Month

Students and educators across Maine are joining those across the nation during the month of February to celebrate national Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. | More

MaineCare Seed payment adjustments made, report review by April 1

The remaining 2014-15 subsidy checks for General Purpose Aid for local schools will reflect adjustments for MaineCare Seed payments paid by the Maine DOE on behalf of school administrative units (SAUs).  | More

Maine DOE shares assessment EL support information

The Maine DOE has released new resources relating to supports available for English learners taking the Maine Educational Assessment for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy developed by Smarter Balanced. | More

School enrollment contacts posted to support assessment administration

Contact information has been posted to the Maine DOE website to assist School Test Coordinators (SCs) in resolving any discrepancies in the student lists available in the Test Information Distribution Engine during the upcoming administration of the new Maine Educational Assessment for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy developed by Smarter Balanced. | More

RFP issued for 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program

The Maine DOE has issued a request for proposals seeking bids to establish or extend 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) in 2015-2016. | More

QZAB Tax Credit Bond applications due April 17

The Maine DOE will accept applications for the Federal Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) Program through April 17. The Department currently has $1,435,000 of QZAB issuing authority to distribute to qualifying schools units. | More

Maine seeks feedback on IDEA Part C application

Maine is seeking input on its application for the Part C (birth through two) program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA. The Part C budget is for State Fiscal Year 2016. | More

Maine State Archives commemorates 150th anniversary of 13th Amendment

The Maine State Archives is celebrating Black History Month by commemorating the State’s 150th anniversary of ratifying the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – February 12, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

The nomination deadline is just days away for the 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Members of the public can enter educators who demonstrate a commitment to excellence and nurturing the achievement of all students at www.mainetoy.org through Feb. 20. To be considered, a teacher must hold at least a four-year degree and be employed by a Maine public school – including a public charter school or publicly supported secondary school.

The eventual winner of the state’s highest teaching honor, which is awarded by the Maine DOE through a program administered by Educate Maine, serves as an advocate for teachers, students and the efforts underway in Maine’s public schools to prepare students for success in college, career and civic life.

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Maine DOE recommends, rather than requires, assessment keyboards

The Maine DOE is pleased to announce that mechanical keyboards will no longer be required for the online administration of the new Maine Educational Assessment for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy. | More

Governor LePage proclaims February Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

Governor Paul R. LePage is requesting Mainers observe Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month this February. | More

JMG receives $200,000 to expand to Cony High School

Governor Paul R. LePage and Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin were on hand Tuesday as Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG) accepted a $200,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation. | More

School day SAT administration support available

The Department is letting schools preparing to administer the optional SAT to their students on Wednesday, April 15 know of support available from College Board. | More

Nominations open for Maine’s 2015 Curriculum Leader of the Year

The Maine Curriculum Leaders’ Association (MCLA) is seeking nominations for the 2015 Maine Curriculum Leader of the Year through March 30. | More

Maine DOE sets reduced AP test fees for low-income students

The Maine DOE has worked with the U.S. Department of Education and the College Board to acquire grant money to cover a portion of the exam fee for low-income students. | More

Department updates guidance on adult ed and MUSER

The Maine DOE has recently revised its FAQs on adult education and its role in Maine’s Unified Special Education Regulations (MUSER). | More

Students encouraged to enter Maine Constitution Essay and Poster Contest

The Maine Secretary of State’s Office is inviting students to enter its Maine Constitution Essay and Poster Contest. | More

Maine schools educating boys of color eligible for $10k COSEBOC award

Qualifying Maine schools are invited to enter the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) fourth annual COSEBOC School Awards. | More

Webinar on Feb. 24 on nuisance birds around schools

Maine schools that have issues with nuisance birds are invited to a free webinar overviewing the challenges that avian pests present and ways to deter them. | More

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