Maine DOE Monthly – March 29, 2016

Welcome to the March issue of the Maine DOE Monthly, which provides a recap of some of the month’s most important updates from the Department.

Commissioner’s Comments

Augusta is great and often all-consuming. Yet, opportunities to travel around the state and to meet children in their schools are a reminder of what it’s all about. These students are tangible evidence of quality learning that is underway in Maine. The following is just a sampling.

Com. Beardsley, Jacob S. & Ms. Millevile
Acting Commissioner Bill Beardsley with one of the “Invention Convention” winners, Jacob Saucier and his “Snoozer” along with the Language Arts teacher, Sarah Milleville. Photo Courtesy Massabesic Middle School.

Among my travels were visits to preschool classrooms, from Houlton to Chelsea Elementary to the Riverton School in Portland. I am struck by how different, yet how uniquely qualified each teacher is, how the curriculum seemed similar, yet teaching strategies and styles are personalized, and how food is inseparable from learning.

There was a fascinating visit to the “Invention/Convention” at Massabesic Middle School where 100 students presented original ideas and business plans, plus actual prototype inventions and demonstrations. The fact that each inventor worked alone, selected an invention that would improve their own life, demonstrated a grasp of financial literacy; it was some impressive.

I joined art students from across the state at the Maine Art Advocacy Day celebration and performance and had the opportunity for give and take with a great group of high school art students from St. Agatha. We debated and discussed ways art creates a new prism through which to see sports, jobs, one’s expenses, common things, and personal things.

Arts students
Art students from St. Agatha and Acting Commissioner Bill Beardsley discussing how the arts weaves into other subject matters.

In South Waterboro, I tried to lead a discussion on the concept of prosperity rights and private property with high school and homeschool students, and held on for dear life as they carried the discussions back past the Declaration of Independence to the Magna Carta and then to Greek philosophies. Maine’s K-12 education is as exceptional as it is diverse.

Visits such as these bring the policy issues we address here in Augusta into focus: learning results, proficiency diplomas, standardized tests, EPS, and construction funding.

My recent experiences while travelling the state is a testament to quality teachers, administrators and support services. True, there are endless challenges and responsibilities for our districts and the Department, yet these visits reaffirm that we are all worthwhile.

Bill Beardsley, Acting Commissioner

Other news this past month

March saw the opening of Maine’s assessment window for ELA/literacy and mathematics. The State’s Director of Assessment and Accountability Charlene Tucker says, “Our team and those in the field have been diligently working through the process as we launched a new testing program. Each day we are addressing questions and concerns, and we are offering additional guidance and supports. We appreciate the time, dedication and patience of those in the field.”

Tomorrow the alternative testing window opens and runs through May 13. The recent webinar will soon be found on the MEA alternate testing resource web page. The MEA for science begins next month.

Registration opened for AP4All, advanced placement courses offered online for high school students. Also in March, the Department released a snapshot showing significant progress of proficiency-based implementation.

The Department was pleased to announce RSU 21 Kennebunk School District became the first school administrative unit to be approved for its Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth (PEPG) plan.

Maine’s Learning Through Technology Director Mike Muir reminded us, “Simply owning a device does not improve learning! What matters is what we do with that technology.” Muir’s team released the learning technology framework to support teachers, tech leads, librarians and other school leaders in their efforts to leverage technology to improve student learning.

The 2014-15 statewide graduation and dropout rates were made available this month. The numbers correspond with lower student enrollment.

On the school nutrition front, Maine DOE shared the availability of the Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) tool and equipment assistance grants from the USDA and the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council.

Two Maine school districts received a grant to pay for new school buses that emit less pollution than the older buses the districts now use.

Finally, National FFA representatives visited Maine and were impressed by the diversity of agriculture and natural resources education in the state.


Maine’s Adult Education students were recognized this month in the Hall of Flags. Among the students was a 74 year old woman who hopes to gain employment from her adult education experience.

Close to 500 high school competitors, 36 college competitors, and seven middle school competitors were all champions at the Skills USA Championships this month in Maine.

Learning via the “marine pathway” has been termed “incredible,” and Deer-Isle Stonington students brought their story to lawmakers this past month in Augusta.

Starting this fall, 20 student artists will have their artwork seen by an audience of more than 70,000 students and educators through the MLTI Screensaver Challenge.

Two Maine school leaders received 2016 educational champion awards for their unique contributions to the effort to raise graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and more.

Read on for a roundup of other recent updates from the Department and as always, stay tuned to our Newsroom and weekly Commissioner’s Updates for the latest news you can use from the Maine DOE.