It’s been a busy and exciting month for us as we advance our efforts to move Maine to an education system that is centered around students.
Feedback has started to come in about our newly released strategic plan, “Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan for Putting Learners First.” We appreciate the constructive suggestions and comments from those who have taken time to read the document, and we actively encourage more feedback.
As the feedback trickles in, some of the initiatives outlined in the document are already moving ahead.
On Tuesday, the Legislature’s Education Committee took an important — and unanimous — vote in favor of implementing a proficiency-based high school diploma, which will require that students demonstrate they’ve mastered course materials, rather than spent a specified amount of time studying each subject.
A proficiency-based diploma is an important step toward realizing the learner-centered education system we’ve articulated in our strategic plan, and it’s something we’ve been working toward since 1997, when Maine introduced the Learning Results standards. A proficiency-based diploma values the learning that happens rather than the time spent doing it. A proficiency-based diploma also recognizes that every student is different, every child learns differently, and they all learn at different speeds.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. LePage devoted time in his State of the State address to address the objectives of our strategic plan, asking legislators to “keep one question in mind: What is best for the student?”
Gov. LePage went on to discuss a few key initiatives highlighted in our plan. He talked about expanding student access to career and technical education — promoting it as an option for all students, and removing the adult-imposed barriers (like funding, transportation and scheduling hurdles) to accessing what is often the best choice for many of our learners.
The Governor talked about maximizing the effectiveness of our teachers and school leaders so Maine students continue to have access to some of the best educators around. We plan to do this by working with our teacher preparation programs and educators to: attract the best candidates to the profession; provide them with the training and support they need; set rigorous, yet realistic, performance standards for our educators; give them mentors in the early years; and craft evaluation systems that are fair, constructive and encourage continued professional growth.
The Governor also discussed allowing families – rather than their street addresses – more of a say in determining where students attend school.
In the coming days, weeks and months, the Department will continue to make important progress on a number of initiatives integral to the work outlined in the strategic plan — work that’s integral to designing an education system around the needs of the learner.
While the strategic plan is a working document that could change in response to your feedback, we at the Department are taking advantage of having a document that brings some focus to our work.