Maine schools selected for personalized learning initiative

Twenty New England public schools in the League of Innovative Schools including five from Maine have been selected by the New England Secondary School Consortium and the Great Schools Partnership to participate in a new initiative that will help them develop personalized learning experiences that address the distinct learning needs, interests and aspirations of individual students. The initiative’s goal is to help the schools remodel their academic programs to ensure that every graduate is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, modern workplaces and adult life.

The selected Maine schools will begin their implementation work in the 2015-16 academic year and include Deer-Isle Stonington High School, Hall-Dale Middle and High School, Monmouth Academy, Noble High School, and Richmond Middle and High School.

While each school will pursue its own improvement plan, all twenty will work to ensure that every student achieves challenging learning standards by utilizing instructional strategies such as proficiency-based learning, exhibitions, capstone projects, portfolios and personal learning plans. The schools will also create new opportunities for students to pursue a variety of real-world learning experiences — including collegiate courses, on-the-job internships and student-designed projects — that connect what they are learning in school to the practical issues, problems and applications that impact their communities and society.

The five chief education officers from the NESSC member states including Maine DOE Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin jointly noted that, “As members of the New England Secondary School Consortium, we have long recognized the vital importance of supporting the teachers and administrators who are leading this challenging work in our schools every day. This new initiative builds on the work that has been underway in our states for several years, and we know it will empower our young adults to become the lifelong learners and skilled workers that our communities will need to thrive and prosper in the coming decades. Releasing the creative energy of our educators and students will make our schools even better.”

Over the coming years, the Great Schools Partnership will provide each school with a team of school-improvement specialists — commonly called “school coaches” in the education community — who will help school leaders and teachers implement their plans. The Great Schools Partnership will also increase the level of support it provides to all members of the League of Innovative Schools, which will include additional training opportunities for teachers and school leaders, and new school-improvement resources created by project leaders and participating educators. All resources produced through the project will be published on the New England Secondary School Consortium website and will be available — at no cost — to educators across New England and the country.

“I’m incredibly energized by the work of all of our League members, and even more so by the extraordinary commitment these twenty schools have made,” said David Ruff, executive director of the Great Schools Partnership. “After more than a year of intensive work and planning, the educators in these schools are developing an inspiring array of learning opportunities that will challenge their highest-achieving students and accelerate learning and preparation for young adults who have historically struggled in school.”

In 2009, the New England Secondary School Consortium — which includes Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont — created the League of Innovative Schools, a grassroots network of middle schools and high schools committed to educational innovation and ongoing improvement. The new initiative not only recognizes the longstanding commitment each school has made, but it will build on and accelerate their progress as the schools continue to strengthen their academic programs, share professional expertise, and create more inventive, motivating, and effective learning opportunities for students. The regional network currently has 86 members throughout New England.

“As we prepare our communities and our nation for a future that is increasingly complex and global, our education system must shift dramatically to ensure that all of our students can thrive in the 21st century,” said Nicholas Donohue, president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “These twenty schools are at the forefront of educational progress in this country, shaping learning opportunities for students that are more tailored and personalized, ensuring that each student will be equipped to succeed in life after high school and become contributing participants in civic life.”

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