Toward a literacy of learning

Author icon: Head shot of Commissioner Stephen BowenThere’s something that stands out to me about the schools I’ve visited since becoming Commissioner that have taken major steps toward implementing a standards-based model of education.

It’s not just that students at these schools are making choices about how they’ll learn and how they’ll demonstrate to their teachers that they’ve met the expectations set out for them.

It’s that if you ask a student in Shelly Moody’s fourth-grade class at Williams Elementary School in Oakland or Kelly Grantham’s seventh-grade English class at Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro about what they’re doing, you’ll be taken aback by the answer.

Any student in those classes will tell you what standard they’re working to meet, how they’re becoming proficient in that skill, and what they’ll do next. They’ll tell you how what they’re doing figures into the class’ code of conduct they helped develop at the start of the school year. And they’ll explain why they chose the approach they did to meet the standard.

These students are not only learning the skills they’re expected to master. They’re developing something else: a literacy about learning.

On Friday, the Maine Legislature’s Education Committee unanimously passed L.D. 949, a bill that pushes Maine to that point where every student will graduate with a standards-based diploma — a diploma that indicates a student has mastered the expectations in each content area, not simply put in a specified amount of time at school.

Should that bill make its way through the rest of the legislative process, it’s inevitable that the standards-based model will expand to more Maine schools.

When that happens, the districts that have already started the transformation will be a helpful resource to those districts at the beginning.

And based on my experience in East Waterboro and Oakland, the students will be the standards-based model’s most articulate spokespeople.

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