Bowen tapped to lead nationwide education innovation

AUGUSTA – The success of the LePage Administration’s school reforms have been recognized across the country, and now its Education Commissioner is being tapped to take that transformation nationwide.

Commissioner Stephen Bowen has been recruited by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to become their Strategic Initiative Director of Innovation, which includes oversight of their Innovation Lab Network.

In his role with the nonpartisan, nationwide nonprofit that provides leadership, advocacy and technical assistance on major education issues and includes all state education department heads, Bowen will support states in taking on policy and practices changes to transform their public education systems.

Bowen’s last day at the department he has headed since March of 2011 will be Sept. 12. The Rockport resident will be based in Maine for his new job but will travel across the country on behalf of the Washington D. C. based organization.

“I am pleased that Steve will be working to implement innovative practices throughout the nation’s educational systems,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “It is encouraging that a national organization committed to educational excellence has recognized Commissioner Bowen’s passion and dedication for improving schools and student outcomes. We wish him well, and we hope that he can continue to improve Maine’s educational system by introducing best practices from around the country to our state.”

Over the last two and a half years, Bowen has implemented an innovative LePage Administration strategic plan that creates an evolving education system in Maine that has empowered and engaged students at its center.

In that time, education has undergone its most significant transformation in the state’s history, with the arrival of student choice through the authorization of Maine’s first five charter schools and the advancement of school accountability with the launch of A-F performance grading system and the successful application for flexibility from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Bowen also led enactment of Governor LePage’s landmark legislation to require all Maine schools to adopt educator evaluation systems and to ensure all high school diplomas are awarded starting in 2018 based on student mastery of college and career ready standards.

It is these meaningful, dramatic reforms in putting students first that have made Maine a state to watch, leading to Bowen being approached by the chiefs’ organizations to be a national change agent.

“We are thrilled to have Steve leading this very important work at CCSSO. States across the country are focused on ensuring all students graduate from high school ready for college and career,” said CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich.  “They recognize in order to achieve this goal they need to provide innovative solutions to traditional problems and rethink how best to deliver education today. Steve has led Maine in developing some of the most innovative education practices in the country and we look forward to bringing his experience and leadership to the national level.”

Bowen admitted the decision to leave Maine DOE was a difficult one, adding he felt “extraordinarily fortunate” to have served a governor with the passion for education of Governor LePage.

“This is not a step I take lightly,” the Commissioner wrote to the Governor in his resignation letter. “I firmly believe in the reform work we are doing here in Maine and I am confident that the reforms we have advanced, both in terms of education policy and in terms of how the Department of Education does its work to support schools and students, will lead to improved student outcomes.”

In his remaining four weeks at Maine DOE, Bowen will work with his senior leadership team including Deputy Commissioner Jim Rier and Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome to develop a plan that will ensure the Department’s momentum is maintained throughout the transition, including its commitment to supporting schools improve.

An Acting Commissioner will be named in the coming weeks.

The Innovation Lab Network that Bowen will direct starting in mid-September is a group of states – including Maine – taking action to identify, test and implement student-centered approaches to spur system-level change by scaling locally-led innovation to widespread implementation, both within and across states.

For more information about the Council of Chief State School Officers and its Innovation Lab Network, visit For more information about the Maine Department of Education, visit

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