Students seek voice in accountability

PORTLAND – Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen met with 10 Portland-area high school students on Dec. 14 to ask for their thoughts on school accountability and how to measure school and teacher effectiveness.

The 10 students represented Portland, Deering and Casco Bay high schools, along with Portland Arts and Technology High School and the Real School in Falmouth.

Below is a summary of the students’ comments and suggestions for Commissioner Bowen:

Student thoughts on measures of an effective school

  • School spirit: Are students participating in school functions, attending sporting events?
  • Community involvement in the school.
  • Student involvement in the broader community – through projects, volunteerism, etc.
  • Caveat: The involvement pieces become complicated to measure when students who need to work, take care of family members are considered.
  • School climate, as determined by student surveys. Is bullying common?
  • Survey instrument is a good measure.
  • Flexibility in how students earn credit. Student studying welding at PATHS, for example, get integrated math credits.
  • Attendance: This is an important factor to consider, but there’s a limit to the degree to which a school should be held accountable for this.
  • Parents and community members could be surveyed about school’s impact on community, how well a school communicates with parents and community members.

Student thoughts on measures of an effective teacher

  • Survey instrument is a good tool.
  • The survey, perhaps, should be done after students are through their classes. “It’s only after you’re done with the class you realize you did learn.”
  • Would students take a survey seriously? Possibly not younger students, but older students generally would. Maybe the results should be adjusted accordingly to account for probability of certain students not taking the task seriously.
  • Potential survey question: Do you feel like you’re doing anything with what you’ve learned?
  • Most students know who the good teachers are. Students can distinguish between the “fun” and “cool” teachers, and those who are especially effective.
  • Standardized testing is long, boring. Better to allow students to demonstrate what they’ve learned through a portfolio of work or a capstone project.
  • Some teachers can engage students in a subject area they haven’t liked. It’s hard to say what it is – a measurable factor – that accomplishes that, though.

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Have your say

  • Visit Maine DOE’s ESEA Flexibility Web Page. Stay on top of developments as Maine DOE crafts the state’s request to the federal government for ESEA flexibility. Learn about opportunities to offer your input.
  • Take the Survey. This 10-question survey asks for your thoughts on measuring school and teacher effectiveness, rewarding school success and helping schools improve. Survey closes Dec. 23 at 5 p.m.
  • Join the Discussion. Visit the Maine DOE Newsroom to share your thoughts in an ongoing online discussion about a new accountability and recognition system for the state’s schools.
  • Stay Informed. Receive the weekly Commissioner’s Update from the Department of Education to stay on top of news on ESEA flexibility and other topics in Maine education.

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