Category Archives: Commissioner’s Updates

Commissioner’s Update – February 6, 2014

From the Maine DOE

Maine’s students are our future, and it is teachers who prepare them with the skills they’ll need to achieve success.

Each year, the Maine DOE Teacher of the Year program gives us an important opportunity to come together as a state to say ‘thank you’ to our most deserving classroom leaders – like current Teacher of the Year Karen MacDonald, an English language arts teacher at Portland’s King Middle School who is ensuring education is the great equalizer for her students, many who are new to our great country.

While Mrs. MacDonald is just beginning her 2014 Teacher of the Year journey that will bring her to communities across Maine, the White House and even NASA Space Camp, we are already seeking nominations for the 2015 honoree.

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Governor LePage, Maine DOE and schools recognize Digital Learning Day

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage proclaimed Wednesday, Feb. 5 as Digital Learning Day throughout Maine and his Administration was joined by the state’s students and schools in recognizing the important opportunities digital learning provides. | More

Charter Commission advances 3 applications, holds public hearings

Last week, the Maine Charter School Commission voted to advance applications from Lewiston-Auburn Academy Charter School, Lewiston; Maine Connections Academy; and Maine Virtual Academy. The application for Many Hands Montessori School in Windham did not move forward. | More

Maine DOE seeks summer food site sponsors

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Education is seeking organizations to help provide low-income children healthy meals when school is not in session this summer. | More

Maine DOE shares educator effectiveness approved models

To support school administrative units (SAUs) in continuing with work already underway when the rule was originally proposed in 2013 as well as SAUs who are just beginning to explore professional practice models, the Department has posted and will update as needed the Maine DOE Menu of Approved Professional Practice Models along with information about the requirements for a model on its Educator Effectiveness website. | More

Self-assessment for proficiency-based diploma transition online through June

Fostering candid self-evaluation, the self-assessment tool provided by Maine DOE leads districts through a comprehensive set of questions focused on policy, practice and community engagement aspects of implementation. | More

Requirement for transportation inclusion in IEP

Our Special Services team members are often asked under what circumstances and in what way does transportation appear in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). | More

Jay Ketner joins Maine DOE as World Languages Specialist

Dr. Jay Ketner has joined the Maine DOE as its World Languages Specialist. In his new role, Ketner will support districts in their implementation of best practices in world languages education and serve as the regional representative for Cumberland County. | More

Judges sought for April 12 History Day competition

Judges are being sought for the 2014 Maine National History Day competition, to be held at UMaine in Orono, on Saturday, April 12. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – January 30, 2014

From the Maine DOE

Maine DOE Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome talks to staff at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston about the impact of math coaches in the classroom. She and I visited Lewiston schools last week to see and support their school improvement efforts, and to provide technical assistance.

Maine DOE Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome talks to staff at Montello Elementary School about the impact of math coaches in the classroom. She and I visited Lewiston schools last week to see their improvement efforts and provide technical assistance.

Last week, Maine DOE Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome and I had the honor of visiting two Lewiston elementary schools undergoing transformation thanks to support from our Department and the federally-funded Title I School Improvement Grant program (SIG). To say I was impressed by what I saw at Longley and Montello would be an understatement.

But what struck me more than the challenges these two schools face – nearly 100 percent of the students at Longley and 84 percent of those at Montello qualify for free or reduced lunch and 65 percent of the students at Longley and 38 percent at Montello are English language learners – was their “accept no excuses” attitude to overcoming them.

That’s because staff within these two schools are taking a team approach to serving students, and not just the ones within their own classrooms. Through collaboration, not only is each student better supported, but so is each educator.

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Shari Templeton joins Maine DOE as Science Specialist

Shari Templeton has joined the Maine DOE as its Science and Technology Specialist. In her new role, Templeton will support districts in their implementation of best practices in science education, work on the development of the State science assessment and serve as the regional representative for York County. | More

Livermore educator named 2013 Maine History Teacher of the Year

Janet Ventrella, a teacher at Livermore Elementary School in Livermore, has been named the 2013 Maine History Teacher of the Year.  Ventrella is in her ninth year of teaching at Livermore Elementary School.  She is a graduate of the University of Maine Farmington and routinely designs lessons and projects which integrate social studies and language arts for her fifth grade students. | More

Governor LePage to deliver State of the State Tuesday

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage will deliver his State of the State Address in the House Chamber at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4. The much-anticipated speech will cover a variety of priorities that include growing Maine’s economy and encouraging families to stay in the state. | More

ACCESS for ELLs testing materials due to Metritech

The ACCESS for ELLs® testing window closes Jan. 31 and districts are required to pack and return all testing material to MetriTech by Feb. 7. | More

Gifted and talented program applications, budgets past due

In December, school administrative units (SAUs) should have completed applications for their gifted and talented programs and submitted them to the Maine DOE for annual program approval. The application represents the school unit’s status of implementation of the gifted and talented program. | More

School construction tax credit bond applications due

The Department will be accepting applications for the Federal Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) Program through March 14. QSCB funds can be used for construction, rehabilitation or repair of a public school facility, or the acquisition of land on which such a facility is to be constructed. | More

Free webinar on supporting students with ear infections

hear ME now, Maine’s leading auditory oral education enter, will host a free webinar entitled “Runny Noses in the Classroom” in February to help educators learn how to recognize children who may be struggling with middle ear fluid and what they can do to help them in the classroom. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – January 23, 2014

From the Maine DOE

I believe that our Department has done more over the last two years than at any other period in our history to ensure there is an effective educator in every classroom and an effective principal in every building.

Earlier this month, we advanced our commitment to supporting great teachers and leaders even further when we provisionally-adopted a new rule to help districts implement the landmark teacher and principal effectiveness law proposed and signed by Governor LePage in 2012. Chapter 180, “Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Systems,” now moves to the Legislature for their consideration and what we hope will be approval to move to final adoption of the rule.

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Acting Commissioner Rier to visit Lewiston schools Thursday

LEWISTON – Maine Department of Education Acting Commissioner Jim Rier will tour two Lewiston schools this Thursday that are undertaking significant initiatives to improve student outcomes. | More

Two Maine schools nominated for National Blue Ribbon distinction

The Maine DOE  has nominated Turner Elementary School and Winthrop Grade School to be 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools. | More

Department supports, clarifies MPA evaluation model

A committee of the Maine Principals’ Association (MPA) has developed a model for evaluating the professional practice of principals.  The model was designed to meet the requirements of Maine’s educator effectiveness law and the rule implementing that law (which was provisionally-adopted this month). | More

Improving literacy skills with close reading

Whether we are writing full sentences or using text messaging shorthand including abbreviations and icons, our ability to make meaning of the language around us is a critical aspect of our society. The updated Maine Learning Results for English Language Arts and literacy reflect this shift in literacy practices. | More

Guidance from Maine DOE on special education students in crisis placements

School administrative units (SAUs) sometimes become aware that a special education student enrolled in one of their schools has been placed in a residential facility identified as a crisis stabilization unit. | More

Nominations open for CTE Excellence in Action award

The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) is pleased to announce its first annual Excellence in Action award, which will recognize and honor superior Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study from around the nation. | More

Updates to special education web resources

The Maine DOE has added a new question-and-answer to the “Consent” entry of the Maine Unified Special Education Regulations (MUSER) frequently asked questions section of its website. | More

Dyslexia for a Day workshop in Brewer on Feb. 1

Project D.E.B.U.N.K., a resource for youth with dyslexia and their families and educators, is sponsoring a Dyslexia for a Day workshop in Brewer on Feb. 1. | More

Opportunity to participate in accessible assessment project

The Maine DOE has served as a critical partner to the Maryland State Department of Education and Measured Progress Innovation lab for the Guidelines for Accessible Assessment Project (GAAP), a project that involves developing research-based guidelines for representing assessment content in audio and sign forms. | More

Students sought for humanities ambassador program

The Maine Humanities Council (MHC) wants creative and energetic rising 10th or 11th graders interested in community engagement through the humanities. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – January 16, 2014

From the Maine DOE

Acting Commissioner Rier speaks at Adult Education Day at the State House.

Acting Commissioner Rier speaks about the strength of Maine’s adult education system last week at the State House.

Last week I had the honor to speak at the annual Adult Education State House Day on behalf of the Maine DOE and Governor Paul LePage.

I was fortunate to talk with several students who had powerful stories to share about how their commitment to bettering themselves through learning is not just improving their college and career prospects, but enriching their lives and that of their families.

Adult education offers something for everyone. From the opportunity to earn a high school credential to support preparing for college to offering low-cost courses on everything from cooking to computer programming, the people of Maine are fortunate to have such a robust adult education system.

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State Board supports Governor LePage’s candidate for Education Commissioner

AUGUSTA –The State Board of Education says they support Governor Paul R. LePage’s proposed Education Commissioner, following an interview with the candidate today. | More

IDEA’s excess costs and MOE requirements

All school administrative units (SAUs) that receive funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are reminded to review two important requirements governing those funds to ensure compliance with them. | More

Educator shares experience transitioning to standards-based system

As Maine schools move to graduating students with a proficiency-based diploma by 2018, the Maine DOE is offering extensive resources to support those locally-led transitions, including through its Center for Best Practice. New to the Center is an interview with Hall-Dale Middle School teacher-leader Dan Crocker.  Entitled “Taking It Personally,” Crocker provides personal perspective on transitioning students, and himself, to a standards-based system, including takeaways for other teachers in transition. | More

New financial literacy resources available from Maine DOE, FAME

A list of suggested financial literacy resources that can help teachers integrate financial literacy instruction in the classroom is available  on the Maine DOE’s Social Studies web page. Additionally, a searchable list of Maine Financial Education Services is now available on the Finance Authority of Maine website. | More

Youth health survey reveals gender differences

Last week the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released the results of the 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS). While there are hundreds of pages of findings, the Department will use the weekly Commissioner’s Update to spotlight some areas of interest. This week, we focus on the responses of the high school students by gender. | More

Acting Commissioner Rier writes in support of uniformed access to Maine schools

The Maine Legislature’s Education Committee held a public hearing today on legislation that would require the boards of Maine secondary schools to adopt and implement policies ensuring that members of the United States Armed Forces or the Maine National Guard and public safety personnel may wear their uniforms when visiting schools in their official capacities. | More

Maine History Teacher of the Year nominations due Feb. 1

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Preserve America and the History Channel annually recognize outstanding American history teachers at the state and national levels. | More

Update on student, school health surveys for principals, lead health teachers

Principals whose school participated in the 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) should have already received login information including passwords to the MIYHS website. | More

Chinese guest teacher and trainee applications due

Since 2007, the Chinese Guest Teacher and Trainee program has placed more than 800 visiting teachers in hundreds of schools nationwide. Schools can apply now to host a Chinese guest teacher or teacher-in-training for the 2014-15 school year. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – January 9, 2014

From the Maine DOE

This week, Governor LePage notified the State Board of Education that he would like to nominate me as his permanent Education Commissioner.

While most gubernatorial Commissioner appointments go directly to the legislative committee of jurisdiction, State statute requires the Governor’s nomination for Education Commissioner be first reviewed by the State Board of Education.

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Portrait of Jim Rier, ActingGovernor LePage asks State Education Board to consider Jim Rier as Education Commissioner

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced today that he hopes to make his Acting Education Commissioner permanent.

In a letter sent Monday morning to the State Board of Education, Governor LePage said he intends to nominate Jim Rier, of Topsham, to be Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education, pending that 10-member board’s evaluation of the candidate. While most gubernatorial Commissioner appointments go directly to the legislative committee of jurisdiction, State statute requires the Governor’s nomination for Education Commissioner be interviewed by the State Board of Education, chaired by Nancy Perkins, of Cornish. | More

Maine DOE publishes policy on standards-based IEP goals

Maine’s transition to a proficiency-based diploma by 2018 is underway. Already, many school administrative units are planning spring outreach to the class entering high school next fall as those students will be the first to graduate having demonstrated mastery of all State standards in the eight content areas of the Maine Learning Results. | More

Maine youth report healthier habits, struggles with depression

AUGUSTA – Maine youth are making healthier choices, including smoking and drinking less, but are increasingly struggling with their emotional wellbeing. Those findings and other insights directly from tens of thousands of Maine students about their health and habits are detailed in the newly released results of the 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS). | More

Improving elementary attendance summit scheduled for Jan. 14

Improving elementary school attendance will be the focus of a forum next Tuesday, Jan. 14 in Portland. Attendance Matters: Moving From Awareness to Action is intended for educators, policy makers, administrators, nurses, counselors, social workers, school board members and other stakeholders interested and dedicated to supporting elementary school students be successful in school. | More

Maine DOE shares updates on 2013-14 MHSA/SAT

The Maine DOE has important updates on testing administration dates, an administration webinar, student registration and free readiness and preparation opportunities. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – January 2, 2014

From the Maine DOE

We hope you enjoyed the holidays and some well-deserved down time to recharge for the New Year. As our Department looks forward to serving you in 2014, we also wanted to reflect back on our work from a very busy past 12 months.

Of the nearly 600 items posted in our Maine DOE Newsroom in 2013, not surprisingly our release about Maine’s first school report cards was the most viewed item, with related posts taking up several of the other top traffic spots. While Maine’s first true statewide accountability system caused controversy, it is doing exactly what we at the Department intended.

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Maine DOE introduces new Student Assistance Coordinator

Stephanie Galeucia has been named the Maine DOE’s new Student Assistance Coordinator. Among her primary responsibilities in this role are providing indirect support to students being bullied in Maine schools and helping parents and administrators better understand the Restraint and Seclusion of Students rule. | More

Two Maine educators Presidential Award winners

A kindergarten teacher from Cushing and fifth-grade math teacher from Yarmouth are Maine’s recipients of the prestigious 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). | More

Regional school calendars due May 1

School administrative units and private schools approved for tuition purposes are expected to establish regional school calendars, in coordination with their local secondary career and technical education school, by May 1. | More

Final review of national arts standards scheduled

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) has scheduled a final public review of the draft PreK-12 arts standards in dance, media arts, music, theatre and visual arts. | More

Free training on Integrated Pest Management offered

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is offering six free Comprehensive School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Training workshops in early 2014. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – December 19, 2013

From the Maine DOE

On Saturday, many of us paused to remember the courage of so many in the face of the evil of one on the anniversary of the senseless school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Just one day before, a  17-year-old senior was critically injured by a classmate, who later shot himself, in a shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, just 10 miles away from Columbine, another tragic reminder of our need to always be prepared even for the most unthinkable.

Here in Maine, schools have always taken the safety and security of their students and staff seriously, but even more so since Newtown.

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Literacy for ME releases community literacy resources

The Maine DOE has developed new informational brochures and videos designed to help community literacy teams across the state educate parents and the public about literacy development and empower them with simple ways in which they can support literacy education. | More

Maine Youth Health Survey data now available

The results of the 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) are now available. | More

Certification of superintendent election or reelection due to Maine DOE

The Maine DOE is reminding administrators and school board members of the approaching deadline for annual certification of employment of Superintendent of Schools and related forms to be completed and submitted to the Department. | More

Dine and Discuss workshops to focus on fractions

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Maine (ATOMIM) is offering Dine & Discuss: Fractions Edition sessions focused on building developmental understanding of fractions from kindergarten through high school. Sessions, which run from 4 to 6:30 p.m., are planned for Portland (Jan. 16), Waterville (Jan. 16), Pittsfield (Jan. 22), Kennebunk (Jan. 23), Limestone (Jan. 24) and Rockland (Feb. 11).  | More

Districts reminded of IDEA’s excess costs and MOE requirements

All school administrative units (SAUs) that receive funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are reminded to review two important requirements governing those funds to ensure compliance with them. | More

FIRST LEGO League crowns state champions

AUGUSTA- Sixty two teams descended on the Augusta Civic Center to finish up their FIRST LEGO League Season on Saturday.  Teams from all over the state competed with their LEGO robots on this year’s “Nature’s Fury” playing field. | More

Collaborative conversations vehicle for building knowledge

Imagine yourself observing a rich dialogue between students about an article they have been reading.  The students, seated in small groupings, are actively asking questions, expressing opinions, posing hypotheses and returning to the text for evidence to support their ideas.| More

Responsibilities for special education students placed in out-of-state residential programs

School administrative units (SAUs) sometimes become aware that a student in their district identified as needing special education services is being considered, with involvement by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, for residential placement out of Maine as a result of problems being experienced in the student’s home (i.e., for non-educational reasons).| More

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Commissioner’s Update – December 12, 2013

From the Maine DOE

Earlier this week, I was proud to join Governor Paul R. LePage in honoring the important role computer science has in our state’s classrooms and growing economy by recognizing Computer Science Education Week (CSEDdWeek).

This national awareness week (Dec. 9-15), founded by our Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) partner Microsoft and also sponsored by Apple, our longest-running MLTI partner, seeks to engage more students in computer science.

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Sally Sherman, biologist for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, explains data about winter flounder to students from Downeast Maine who are working together to engineer a new fishery.

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Governor LePage, Acting Education Commissioner Rier recognize Computer Science Education Week

AUGUSTA – Maine Governor Paul R. LePage and Acting Education Commissioner Jim Rier are recognizing the important role computer science has in the state’s classrooms and growing economy. | More

Downeast students partner to engineer new fishery

Students from seven coastal Maine high schools began designing an alternative fishery for Downeast Maine this week as part of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. The 45 students  will work with researchers from Penobscot East Resource Center and the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to begin engineering a trap-based winter flounder fishery. | More

Fairview Elementary wins $25,000 in U.S. Cellular’s Calling All Communities contest

AUBURN – Students, teachers and administrators at Fairview Elementary School are $25,000 richer after being named this week as a 2013 Champion in U.S. Cellular’s Calling All Communities campaign. The Auburn school was one of 20 nationwide that garnered the most community votes and the money to use as they wish to enhance their educational experience.  | More

Maine CDC offers teachers youth tobacco training

Teachers who want to learn how to better talk to youth tobacco users may benefit from free trainings offered throughout the state in December and January by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Comprehensive Cancer Control Program.  | More

QZAB Tax Credit Bond applications due Feb. 14

The Department will accept applications for the Federal Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) Program through Feb. 14.   Maine DOE currently has $2,924,000 of QZAB issuing authority to distribute to qualifying schools units. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – December 5, 2013

From the Maine DOE

Maine schools have long been looked to as national leaders in education innovation.

That’s why I am not surprised that Education Week recently named three of our state’s schools to a list of those across the country worth visiting.

Among the 35 high schools named in Tom Vander Ark’s “On Innovation” column because they “personalize and blend learning; they challenge students with real work and ask them to show what they know” were Casco Bay High School in Portland and Poland Regional High School.

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Commissioner’s Update – November 21, 2013

From the Maine DOE

Last Friday, I had the privilege of attending the annual Teacher of the Year banquet, hosted at Unum’s Portland campus.

It was exciting to see the education and business communities come together to celebrate these champions for children. As Acting Education Commissioner, I hope to facilitate us working together more to ensure we are best serving our students and our great State.  

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