The school administrators who attended our 100th annual Maine School Superintendents’ Conference this week had a tall order.
Not only did we ask them to absorb lessons from the experiences of six Maine school systems that are undertaking the work of transformation and learn about new, powerful technology that can drive student learning.
We asked our educational leaders to envision an education system that looks substantially different from the one we have today, and imagine a structure for the Department of Education that can help us realize that vision.
I’m pleased to report the 105 superintendents and assistant superintendents who attended the conference didn’t disappoint. They took the challenge head on and came back with a powerful vision for an education system that:
- is student-centered, standards-based and responds foremost to student needs;
- engages the broader community to provide students with mentors and memorable learning experiences;
- lets students learn anytime and anywhere, not simply within the confines of the school structure;
- is driven by what the data and research tell us about what works best;
- features learning that’s rigorous and relevant; and
- equips students with the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century.
As for the Department of Education, there was no shortage of advice on what we should do more of, what we should do less of and what we shouldn’t do at all.
The Department of Education, we’re told, should continue and even expand its leadership role in helping schools implement the Common Core state standards in English and math.
We’re also told that the Department should provide schools the necessary support when they decide they want to undertake the work of transformation.
And we’re told the Department should be less of a regulator and more of a resource.
A lot was accomplished at this year’s Superintendents’ Conference, and much progress was made on cementing a general vision for the role we want our school system to fulfill.
That still leaves us much hard work in ironing out the details and making that vision a reality.
I’m heartened, though, that as we take on this work, the Department of Education has invaluable partners in the form of our superintendents.