Category Archives: Commissioner’s Updates

Commissioner’s Update – May 14, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

LD 131 “An Act To Amend the Laws Related to Public Funding of Charter Schools” was signed May 8, 2015 by Governor LePage. Under the new law  Maine DOE will make monthly payments directly to approved public charter schools starting in FY16, the same way the Department has long distributed funds to traditional public school districts.

Currently, districts that lose students to public charter schools are billed directly by the receiving charter school. The Maine DOE will provide financial relief to traditional school units since they no longer must include these payments in their annual budgets.

The new funding method will relieve the unpredictable financial impact of charters to individual (sending) districts and was overwhelmingly supported by leaders of Maine’s school districts, including the 100 or so that now have at least one student enrolled in one of the state’s five bricks-and-mortar charter schools or the virtual Maine Connections Academy. The change also allows Maine to move beyond the divisive debate about charter school funding and refocus on how to create opportunities for students to be most successful at Maine public schools, whether they be charters or traditional.

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First Lady LePage, Acting Education Commissioner announce 2015 County Teachers of the Year

First Lady Ann LePage and Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin marked Teacher Appreciation Week by announcing the top teacher from each Maine county. | More

Maine Department of Education pledges additional funding to support autism resource, research institute

The Maine Department of Education is committing over $150,000 to continue the work of the state’s first autism institute. | More

Department seeks feedback on ESEA waiver renewal

The Maine DOE is seeking feedback on Maine’s proposed Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver Renewal application. | More

Alternate assessment for math, ELA closing May 15

The deadline to submit the National Center and State Collaborative Alternate Assessment (NCSC), used to assess students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in mathematics and English language arts is this Friday, May 15. | More

Maine DOE joins library advocates in Washington, D.C. for National Library Legislative Day

Last week the Maine DOE was represented along with hundreds of library supporters in Washington, D.C. to speak with their legislators about the importance of libraries. | More

Notice to 30th annual school wellness conference applicants; due date extended to May 29

If your school submitted an application for the 30th Annual Maine Schoolsite Health Promotion Program “Wellness” Conference to the Maine DOE but has not yet received a confirmation please contact the Department. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – May 7, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

The Maine DOE  will continue school site visits into June to provide targeted technical assistance for proficiency-based extension options five and six.

Visits to schools that were granted an extension five or six  are providing valuable information about the types of supports needed by districts to sustain the transition to proficiency-based education and reflects the deep commitment of districts to student-centered learning.

The Maine DOE will release information about the 2015 renewal process for extensions soon. Last year’s extension applications provided a clear picture of the status of districts implementation of proficiency-based education to date. District extension applications can be viewed on the Maine DOE website. The Maine DOE anticipates a dramatically streamlined renewal process for spring 2015.

The Maine DOE plans to convene extension option six schools as a group in June to provide targeted supports for the implementation of proficiency-based diplomas. This convening is in lieu of a second site visit. More information about this event will be sent to districts in the coming weeks.

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Nominations open for MAHPERD Teachers of the Year

Nominations are open for the Maine Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (MAHPERD) Teachers of the Year awards. | More

New technology awards announced, nominations open through June 1

The Association for Computer Technology Educators of Maine (ACTEM) announced their REBOOTED and REIMAGINED awards, open to innovative educators at all grade levels that have a direct impact on student learning. | More

Schoolwide program funding involving local entitlement funds

Schools that have been granted schoolwide program status under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) are required to submit a budget showing funding sources for their activities. | More

Special services invoicing procedure for state agency clients

Under MUSER §IV.4.E(3), the Maine DOE is responsible for the costs of special education services provided to state agency clients and pays those costs directly to the providing agency or person. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – April 30, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

As parts of its commitment to ensuring all students have access to great teachers and leaders, the Maine DOE has developed a resource that districts can use to self-assess their readiness to pilot their Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth (PEPG) systems in the 2015-16 school year. The Pilot Readiness Guide provides:

  • The current implementation timeline
  • Key system components that districts must and/or should pilot
  • Indicators of readiness to pilot each component
  • Relevant resources, with page and section references
  • Questions that school administrative units might seek to answer during the pilot
  • Guidance for Teacher Incentive Fund districts (TIF 3 and TIF 4)
  • DEMO student learning and growth effectiveness rating scales

This guide is intended for local district use. It is not for reporting purposes. As a follow-up to this resource, in June, the Department will ask districts to confirm their intent to pilot by completing a short online survey. Details about this process will be provided with the release of the survey.

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Maine DOE invites educators to performance assessment webinar

The Maine DOE is inviting Maine educators to participate in a free webinar, Laying the Foundation for Performance Assessment: Lessons Learned from the Innovation Lab Network Pilot in New England, on Wednesday, May 27 at 3 p.m. | More

Regional school calendars past due

The Department is reminding school administrative units (SAU) and private schools approved for tuition purposes that they are now required to establish regional school calendars, in coordination with their local secondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) school. | More

Educators encouraged to save the date for MLTI Summer Institute

The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is encouraging educators to save the date for its 2015 Summer Institute, scheduled July 21-23 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. | More

MaineCare Seed payment adjustments made, report review due May 22

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

Alternate assessments closing soon

The deadline to submit the MEA Alternate Science (PAAP) portfolios electronically is 5 p.m. today, April 30. | More

Maine teachers invited to participate in assessment hand scoring

Maine’s teachers are invited to apply for part-time work available now through June as a reader/evaluator in the scoring process for students across states who participated in the 2015 Smarter Balanced developed assessment.| More

Newly released ACCESS for ELLs® score reports a resource for supporting students

The Maine DOE is reminding schools that the ACCESS for ELLs® score reports received earlier this month can be used to determine if individual English learners are meeting expected English language proficiency growth. | More

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Commissioner’s Update – April 23, 2015

From the Maine Department of Education

The Maine DOE is recognizing 21 schools across the state for their high performance or progress as measured by the State’s federally required accountability system.

As part of Maine’s approved application for flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA or No Child Left Behind), the State received a waiver to implement its own plan to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps and increase the quality of instruction through the implementation of its own tiered statewide system of support. By reviewing annual progress and student proficiency, schools are placed into one of five categories: priority, focus, monitor, progressing and meeting, allowing the Department to most intensively target support to the schools that need it most.

Just as Maine’s system allows the Department to identify schools that most need improvement support, it also recognizes those showing the greatest levels of improvement and performance.

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Maine DOE specialists support improvement initiatives at newly identified schools

The Department’s School Improvement Team is continuing to provide support and technical assistance to help raise student achievement at the state’s schools, including those recently identified as priority, focus and monitor under Maine’s federally required accountability system. | More

Maine DOE seeks readers for 21st CCLC grant competition

The Maine DOE is seeking qualified grant readers for its upcoming 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant application review process. | More

Maine Arts Commission seeks teacher leaders for assessment initiative

The Maine Arts Commission is inviting visual and performing arts teachers to consider being a teacher leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI), phase 5. | More

Maine School Nutrition Association dishes out top director, manager awards

The Maine School Nutrition Association (MSNA) has honored RSU 13 Director of School Nutrition Charles Butler as Director of the Year and Portland Public Schools Nutrition Manager Nancy McAdam as Manager of the Year. | More

State releases school-based modules on tick and mosquito diseases and prevention

New modules on tick and mosquito diseases and prevention that were developed by the Maine CDC Division of Infectious Disease with input from the Maine DOE are now available to the state’s schools. | More

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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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