Bowen visits Lewiston HS to explain targeted ed support, explore virtual classes

Social studies teacher Michelle Crowley shows Commissioner Bowen the virtual lessons she teaches with the Massachusetts Virtual High School Collaborative.
Social studies teacher Michelle Crowley shows Commissioner Bowen the virtual lessons she teaches with the Massachusetts Virtual High School Collaborative.
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CORRECTION: This corrects an earlier version. Rob Callahan is director of the Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

LEWISTON – Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen detailed targeted education supports in Governor Paul R. LePage’s proposed biennial budget Thursday at Lewiston Regional Technical Center. Those supports include funding to help districts implement the proficiency-based diploma and teacher evaluation systems enacted by the Legislature last year; the expansion of college opportunities through five-year high school/associate’s degree programs, dual credit, and Adult Ed transition programs; and making the kinds of supports and technical assistance that have been available only to Title I schools available to all schools.

In his budget, Gov. LePage proposes the establishment of an Office of School Improvement and Support to provide more and direct assistance to school districts, including non-Title I schools for the first time, in order to improve student achievement—a goal at the core of Bowen’s plan for the next two years.

“If we are going to expect more from schools, we must also give them focused support and assistance,” Bowen said. “By offering funds and technical assistance to both Title I and non-Title I schools, we’d be helping all schools in Maine improve. I am working to restructure the work of the Department in a way that focuses as much of our resources and energy as possible on supporting school improvement.”

Bowen noted, too, that despite the challenges of the current fiscal climate, with cuts to many state agency budgets, schools will still receive $84 million more over the first four years of the LePage administration than they would have had the budget been flat-funded at the 2010-11 level, before he took office. He noted that this figure does account for the retirement adjustment.

Over the next two years, LePage intends to spend an annual $2.5 million to help districts implement teacher and principal evaluation systems; $2 million to facilitate the transition to proficiency-based high school diplomas, ensuring that students graduate with a diploma that truly prepares them for post-secondary level study and/or work; and $1.5 million to assist Career and Technical Education centers and regions in attaining national industry certification, enabling students to receive college credit more easily, and increasing their chances at successful college completion.

The Department will also focus on expanding the Adult Education College Transitions program, the five-year high school model, and Maine’s early college program. “These expansions will allow more students to more easily access post-secondary experiences,” Bowen said. “We’ve got a lot on our plates over the next two years, but we’ve got the motivation and the capacity to make long-lasting, life-changing improvements to education in Maine.”

Linda St. Andre, principal of Governor James B. Longley Elementary School in Lewiston, spoke about Longley’s journey from struggling school to transformed institution. Through the federal School Improvement Grant program, Maine DOE provided her school and staff with the targeted assistance they needed to redefine Longley and help students make progress.

“The Maine DOE staunchly supports the belief that school improvement is not a top-down process,” St. Andre said. “Longely’s school leadership team makes the decisions for our school.” But they do so collaboratively with the Department, she said.

“Although being identified as a low-performing school is not what any principal and staff wants, the up side is that it does come with quality assistance,” she said. “I encourage other schools to take advantage of that should they have the opportunity.”

Rob Callahan, director of the Lewiston Technical Center, said the industry certification for programs is vital to creating opportunities for students.

“Students are getting the exposure to what life after LRTC and high school might look like,” he said, by working on current equipment and learning the skills they need to be certified in their field of interest.

Joan Macri, director of the College for Me program in Androscoggin County, which helps high school students take college courses on a college campus for college credit, said she is “overjoyed” that the state is considering expanding funding for the program and looking at their model.

“Since 2004 (when Lewiston started the program) we have truly seen the lives of high school students transformed,” she said. The program targets “B and C students” and helps them to see college as a real and attainable option. “Nothing communicates that message like being on a college campus, taking college classes,” she said.

Following the press conference, Bowen spent the afternoon at the school, the second stop on his promising practices tour. He spoke with social studies teacher Michelle Crowley about videotaping one of the virtual lessons she offers as a teacher with the Massachusetts Virtual High School Collaborative. He also spoke with Lewiston High School students who take virtual classes through the same collaborative to supplement their educational program. Nearly 50 students at Lewiston are enrolled in virtual classes, and Webster hopes to increase that number in coming years.

Bowen also heard about the school’s very active College for ME program, which puts more students in early college classes than almost any other high school in the state. Lewiston’s school board has recently approved Webster’s plan to expand and formalize that work through a College Scholars program. This program will allow 15 to 20 students to spend half their school day taking classes and earning credit at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

During Bowen’s promising practices tour, which will take him to all nine superintendent regions in the state before the end of the school year, he plans to see the innovative practices schools are implementing that are showing promise and that are helping to forward the priorities in the Maine DOE strategic plan and the Governor’s ABC Plan for education.

Enhancing Student Performance and Opportunity

Targeted spending initiatives in the Biennial Budget


School Improvement and Support
Provides targeted resources to assist and support underperforming and struggling schools. Would expand school improvement support capacities at the DOE and provide grants to districts – including non-Title I schools for the first time – to implement school improvement plans. Most funds and resources directly to field. The work is at the core of Commissioner Bowen’s plans for the next two years: restructuring the Department to provide more and direct assistance to school districts in improving student achievement, with an emphasis on funding and support for struggling schools.  ()


Teacher and principal evaluation systems

Assist districts in implementing teacher and principal evaluation systems, as required by LD 1858 and the anticipated ESEA waiver. Would provide grants to districts to assist in the implementation of teacher and principal evaluation systems.



College Transitions

Expand a highly successful program that provides high-quality, cost-effective and accessible pathways to postsecondary education throughout the state. This investment would more than double the number of Adult Education sites offering this program.


CTE industry certification

Assist Career and Technical Education centers and regions in attaining national industry certification, pursuant to LD 1779, passed last session, providing increased opportunities for students to attain certification, appropriate training, and post-secondary credit. Funds would be used for equipment upgrades, staff training, new student assessments.


Proficiency-based diploma

Assist districts in transitioning to proficiency-based high school diploma, as required by LD 1422, providing greater assurance that a student who earns a diploma is prepared for post-secondary work or study. Would provide grants to districts to support this transition.



Five-year high school

Expand the Bridge Year-type early college model to more CTE schools in the state, allowing a high school diploma and postsecondary degree in five years. Would fund program alignment, teacher training and support, and expanded programming for students.


Aspirations program

Expands the state’s existing early college program, allowing more students to gain post-secondary experience and credit while still in high school. Proposed language change would double the allowable credits all students could gain through the program and allow homeschoolers access to the program.

+ $600,000/yr

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates

Expands the reach of this highly successful program to well over 5,000 students statewide, helping at-risk students to be successful in school and enter post-secondary education and the workforce prepared to succeed.

+ $450,000 (fy14)
+ $600,000 (fy15)

Governor LePage’s investments in General Purpose Aid to Local Schools

Graph showing that LePage GPA amounts have increased above Baldacci baseline.

Governor LePage has kept GPA above the amount it was when he took office every year of his administration. If Governor LePage’s biennial budget is enacted as proposed, by the end of his first term the governor will have invested roughly $84 million in our schools over and above the baseline GPA amount when he took office.

Budget year Baldacci baseline LePage GPA amounts LePage GPA amounts above  baseline
FY 11

$ 872m

FY 12

$ 872m



FY 13*

$ 872m



FY 14**

$ 872m



FY 15**

$ 872m





* The amount listed for FY 13 is after the curtailment of GPA enacted in the recent supplemental budget.

** The $894 million listed for FY 14 and FY 15 is the net amount committed by the state after $27 million in new money is added to GPA to partially offset the $28 million in new costs to districts created by having those districts pay the normal pension costs for their employees.  The actual proposed amount for GPA for FY 14 and FY 15 is roughly $922 million.

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