Transparent, inclusive process will improve Maine’s standards

Earlier this week, a 24-person panel came together in Augusta to begin reviewing the state’s math and English language arts standards.

The panel’s membership – which includes parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, college professors and business leaders – is diverse, as are their perspectives. Over the next six weeks, they’ll assess the rigor and clarity of each standard and make suggestions where improvement is needed.

I personally asked them to participate in this critical process because learning standards underlie much of our work in the coming years to transform education in Maine, from the awarding of proficiency-based diplomas to the implementation of educator evaluations and next generation assessment systems. If changes are needed, the time to make them is now.

This isn’t the first time our Department has updated standards. Since the Maine Learning Results were established for eight content areas back in 1997 when I was on the State Board of Education, there have been four rounds of updates, most recently in 2011 to the standards for math and English language arts.

In Maine, learning standards are in Department rule and any updates to them are made through a Department-led rulemaking process that requires final approval by the Legislature and the Governor.

What is different this time around is that prior to that rulemaking, the Maine DOE is engaging the expertise of this panel, which will deliver its recommendations to me later this fall. We are also reaching out to include the public by encouraging them to submit specific input to improve specific standards by Nov. 1 through an online comment form on the Department’s website.  I’ll consider both the input of the panel and the public and plan to initiate a formal rulemaking process that would additionally allow for public comment in writing and at public hearings before the Department and the Legislature.

Standards set a bar and the Department is sensitive to the challenges moving that bar can create for Maine students and schools. At the same time, the expectations of higher education and the 21st century workforce are rapidly evolving, even in the five or so years since these current standards were developed. The standards must somehow keep pace so our students remain competitive while allowing our educators the time they need for thoughtful implementation

All Mainers want high standards for our students and believe they are capable of meeting them. From this updating process, I anticipate refinements that reflect the expertise of our panel and the experience of our state in implementing the current standards over the past three years. We will emerge not just with stronger standards but stronger collective confidence in them. Please know that the Department will provide adequate time and supporting professional development resources for locally determined implementation of the updated standards.

There is now greater awareness about standards than ever before. This transparent review and eventual rulemaking process provides an opportunity to leverage that interest and bring Maine people together to ensure our state’s standards are the best they can be at preparing all of our students for college and career success.

To submit public input or for more information about the Maine Learning Standards Review Panel including its members, meeting schedule and the standards it will review, visit www.maine.gov/doe/standardsreview.

One thought on “Transparent, inclusive process will improve Maine’s standards

  1. As a middle level ELA teacher going into my 30th year in education, I would like to state that I have found the Common Core State Standards in ELA to be quite worthy. I have learned to ask much more of my students in terms of what they both comprehend and produce. While I appreciate the call for a panel to review standards, I am not in favor of throwing out or weakening the CCSS in any way at this point. We need to give the process of implementing CCSS, assessing for it/them with fair, rigorous, common sense assessments, and collecting and analyzing enough longitudinal data to make careful, data-driven decisions, a fair shake before we make significant changes. I will certainly be looking for the opportunities to share my classroom experience with CCSS.

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