Acting Education Commissioner to visit Auburn schools

AUBURN – Maine’s Acting Education Commissioner will return Wednesday to the Auburn schools he once attended to learn about their efforts to improve outcomes and to inspire students with his own story.  

Maine Department of Education Acting Commissioner Tom Desjardin will visit the Washburn Elementary School (preK-6) where his own educational career began and his alma mater, Edward Little High School.

At Washburn, where 78 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, the Acting Commissioner will visit classrooms with Principal Laura Shaw to see ongoing efforts to close achievement gaps. The school, which has a motto of “Learning equals opportunity,” has made important gains in reading and writing in recent years, especially among its most struggling students.

At Edward Little, Desjardin will speak to students and staff about his journey from Red Eddie to being Maine’s top education official and a noted historian and author who has penned several books with an emphasis on Maine history and the Battle of Gettysburg.

He’ll also visit classrooms with Principal James Miller to see how Auburn educators integrate technology into their teaching to better engage students and to hear how the school is preparing to award proficiency-based diplomas.

State law requires that starting in 2018, high schools issue diplomas based on student demonstration of proficiency in eight content areas. The reform’s intent is to ensure Maine students graduate college and career ready. The current gap between the percentage of Auburn students who graduate from high school and those who are actually proficient in math and reading is 36 percent, slightly better than the statewide average.

The shift to locally developed systems that support the awarding of proficiency-based diplomas is among the most significant ever undertaken in Maine schools. To ensure quality implementation, the Maine DOE has given districts that show they are on their way to complying with the law an extension opportunity and Auburn has successfully applied to begin awarding proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2021.