By all accounts last Friday’s Governor’s Conference on Education: Putting Students First was a great success. Not because everyone agreed with every idea that was presented, but because we were able to hear about innovations and reforms in Florida and elsewhere that have had some real impact on student achievement, and continue our conversation about which make sense for Maine to consider and put into action.
More than 200 superintendents, legislators, principals, teachers, higher ed administrators and others attended the event (a big thank you to Cony High School in Augusta for hosting).
Tony Bennett, Florida’s commissioner of education and the former state schools chief in Indiana, outlined some of the reforms he implemented in Indiana, and also spoke frankly about some things he would do differently to engage teachers and the public more in understanding the proposed changes and the intent behind them.
A panel from the Foundation for Excellence in Education talked about some of the innovations implemented there, including a school performance grading system, similar in aspects to the one we will roll out here in Maine in the coming weeks.
“Education, for me, was a way out of extreme poverty, and I want every child in Maine to have the same opportunity I had to pursue a quality education,” Governor LePage told the audience. “We should not be afraid to look at what other states are doing. We won’t pursue every idea discussed at today’s conference. But we will consider all of them, and we will engage in a conversation with Maine’s education and political leaders on how our work can support children in achieving greater success in education and in life.”
The response was so positive that Governor LePage plans to make it an annual event. We heard some suggestions, too, and will work to incorporate changes into next year’s conference – more time for Q&A, and to get some classroom practitioners into the speaker lineup, too.
This year’s conference isn’t over, though – we encourage you to view the materials from the conference and the videos, which will be posted by tomorrow, at the Governor’s Conference on Education website. Also watch for the questions that were submitted by audience members to be posted by tomorrow. We’ll then work with the presenters to answer those in the coming days. And, finally, we will also open up a discussion forum, linked from the same website, so that we can continue to discuss what we heard at the conference and try to narrow in on some of the reforms that make the most sense for Maine and talk about how to implement them.
Help us keep the conversation going. Comment below, and when we post the questions and answers, weigh in! We won’t all agree on every action step, but we do all agree on the need to make the impact of our actions on students and student achievement our top priority. If we start there, we can surely map out a path that will move us closer to that goal.