ECET2 in Maine: Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching!

In her opening remarks to the York and Downeast convenings of Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2), Maine Education Association (MEA) president Grace Leavitt told those assembled, “teaching is not a profession you leave at the door when the bell rings, it is always on your mind.” For the teachers packed into the Pratt & Whitney Building at York County Community College on August 7, and the Science Building at the University of Maine at Machias on August 15, summertime professional learning was certainly alive and well!

This summer marked the fifth anniversary of ECET2 in Maine and the first summer of regional Maine ECET2 convenings. Karen MacDonald and Jennifer Dorman (2014 & 2015 Maine Teachers of the Year) hosted the first ECET2 for 150 teachers at Colby College in August of 2015.

two educators posing together smiling
Karen MacDonald and Jennifer Dorman

MacDonald and Dorman wrote grants, sought sponsors, and spent countless hours (!!) handling the numerous logistics involved in planning and hosting a free, overnight conference for 150 Maine teachers. Why? They wanted to share the professional learning, leadership, and respect they experienced during their national Teacher of the Year travels with teachers here in Maine. They also wanted to highlight the role teacher leaders can play in our state. Dorman and MacDonald’s efforts were enthusiastically embraced by Maine teachers not only during that first summer, but in each subsequent year.  As rave reviews of ECET2 spread, more teachers joined the planning process, including Diana Allen (Sanford Schools) as another co-chair, and the conference became so popular there was not only a waitlist for attendees, but the number of presentation proposals exceeded the available session slots! These factors led to ECET2 branching out to the regional convenings that took place this summer.

Why is ECET2 so popular?  Let’s start with the title—this conference is all about celebrating effective teaching and teachers—and it is, from start to finish, put on by teachers for teachers.  It was born out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession, and seeks to realize a teacher’s potential by ensuring each convening includes these six elements:

  • Nurtures trust among teachers
  • Focuses on each teacher’s potential for growth
  • Inspires both the intellect and the passion that drives teachers in their work
  • Provides time for collaboration and learning
  • Puts teachers in the lead
  • Recognizes teachers as talented professionals

Inspired from their own experiences at ECET2, Pamela Starkey (Marshwood Great Works School, 2016 Oxford County Teacher of the Year), and Devan Weber (Eliot Elementary School) co-chaired ECET2 York, and Marielle Edgecomb (Peninsula School, 2017 Hancock County Teacher of the Year) chaired ECET2 Downeast. Both convenings featured breakout sessions on best teaching practices in content areas, as well as sessions on social-emotional learning and mindfulness in the classroom. Teacher leadership and innovation were embedded throughout the gatherings. Keeping in mind the importance of collaboration, inspiration, and celebration, the convenings also included these components:

Cultivating the Calling:

These inspirational talks are given by teachers on why they chose to teach, or what inspires them to continue teaching. In York, Katie Toothaker, 2018 Androscoggin Teacher of the Year, told the audience, “each school year is a new beginning for you and your students.” Toothaker shared how her teachers demonstrated the ability of public educators to nurture self-worth in their students and the difference that made for her and how she pays that forward with her own students. Teresa Gaetjens, National Board Certified Teacher, shared the importance of growth mindset, contextualizing her topic around the passing of her young daughter. This heart-wrenching story underscored the importance of perseverance both in and out of the classroom. At ECET2 Downeast, Marielle Edgecomb shared the importance of professional learning –teacher to teacher—being brave enough to open our classroom doors and teaching practices for others to see, learn from, and celebrate. Marielle challenged educators to see their students and colleagues through “eyes of appreciation.”

Colleague Circles:

This is a dedicated time for teachers to collaborate on “problems of practice” and generate possible solutions. Topics this year included: teacher shortages, school improvement, mental and physical wellness, school safety, diversity, and culturally responsive teaching. In York, teachers recorded goals or action steps on a post card and gave them to the ECET2 organizers, with the understanding that they will receive them in the mail sometime this fall as a reminder/check-in on their summer work and goals.

Educator Shark Tank—a fabulous idea that was shared from another state’s ECET2!

Just like on TV—except the prize money, $1000 generously donated by the Maine Education Association, was awarded to two innovative education projects that will positively impact student learning. Educators at ECET2 Downeast submitted many compelling proposals to the Sharks, four of which made the final round. The four finalists had three minutes each to present their best “pitch” to the Sharks. After a lively round of presentations and lots of laugher, followed by clarifying questions from the Sharks, the two $500 cash awards went to the Rose Gaffney School for their proposal to use technology to increase community and collaboration, and the Brooklin School for their work on diversity and literacy. Congratulations to all who submitted proposals—the Sharks had a tough task choosing just two!

The verdict is in on the first summer of regional ECET2 convenings: resounding success! As with their central Maine ECET2 predecessors, the regional convenings provided a platform for optimistic and personal professional learning—and a true celebration of teachers and the teaching profession! As teachers were preparing to leave, many of their comments echoed Paula Bourque’s (Instructional Coach, NBCT, Augusta Schools) reflection of her ECET2 experience:

“Each of us left the conference feeling inspired, empowered, and connected.  We are charged with going out and sharing what we experienced and learned with our colleagues and cultivating the calling of teacher leadership. We left with a stronger network to lean on and collaborate with as we navigate the challenges of teaching. We are dedicated to promoting teacher leadership, positive school culture, and the advocacy for what is best for our students.”

ECET2: A perfect way for educators to recharge in preparation for a new school year!

ECET2 origin and resources: https://www.teacher2teacher.education/ecet2/

 

MEDIA ADVISORY: Education Leaders Convening at UMF for 2nd Annual Teach to Lead Conference

What:

The 2nd annual Powered by Maine Teach to Lead® conference is taking place as a chance for educators and school administrators to network with other leaders throughout the state and to provide participants with the unique opportunity to collaborate with fellow teachers and school administrators on an action plan to accomplish common goals and solve identified issues for the coming school year.

Teach to Lead® is a collaborative statewide effort that unites educators, policy-makers, and the greater community around the common vision that every Maine student will benefit from the purposeful involvement of teacher leaders who collaborate in guiding the continuous improvement of schools and the teaching profession.

Teacher leadership systems can also help state, district, and school leaders capitalize on the talents and insights of teachers currently working in local schools. Over time, infusing teacher leadership roles and opportunities throughout educational systems may help to develop, recruit, and retain a greater and even more effective educator workforce.

Who:

Teacher leaders, principals, superintendents, and other school administrators from around the state, educators from Maine’s Teacher of the Year program, and representatives from Maine Principals Association (MPA), Maine Education Association (MEA), University of Maine at Farmington, and the Maine Department of Education, including Deputy Commissioner Daniel Chuhta.

When:

Friday, August 16th
8:30am to 3:30pm – Remarks from Maine DOE Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta will take place just before the lunch break.

Where:

University of Maine at Farmington, North Dining Hall

For more information contact Kelli Deveaux, Maine DOE Director of Communications at kelli.deveaux@maine.gov or (207) 624-6747.

Next Think Tank Scheduled for September 30!

In the ongoing effort to engage with all stakeholders, the Department of Education will hold its next Think Tank at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor on September 30.  Participants can choose  from four topics, and can attend morning or afternoon sessions only on one topic, or attend both sessions and discuss two topics! Topics include special education, defining school success, educator excellence (recruiting and retaining) and MLTI.  Lunch will be provided, and the think tank is FREE, however we do ask for participants to register, for planning purposes.  Please see the Registration Link for more information and to register. We look forward to hearing from you!

Maine DOE Engages Stakeholder Input Through Regional Think Tank Series

Drawing its largest gathering of stakeholders, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) hosted its 5th event in a series of Think Tanks held at various locations throughout the state this spring and summer. The Think Tanks are a way for the Department to discuss various topics and gain feedback from stakeholders about ongoing initiatives, long term programming, and to inform future decision-making.

In this first round of Think Tanks, the following topics were discussed: redefining school success, the Maine Learning Through Technology Initiative (MLTI), educator readiness, educator excellence, and special education.

The July 8th event held in Augusta started off with a warm introduction from Deputy Commissioner Daniel Chuhta thanking participants for making the trek to Augusta, in some cases from as far away as Washington County. Shortly after, attendees split off into three large groups to discuss specific topics for the day.

The discussion about MLTI, hosted by Beth Lambert, Maine DOE Coordinator of Secondary Education and Integrated Instruction, was introduced with an explanation of the 20 year history of MTLI, an acknowledgement that information will be forthcoming in regards to the recent passage of the budget and the coming school year, and that the day’s feedback will aid in the planning of the future of MLTI beyond 2021 when all of the current contracts have come to an end.

“Before we begin, I want to mention that there is only one thing that is off the table for today’s discussion,” said Lambert in her opening remarks. “We will not be talking about whether or not to end the MLTI Program,” she noted. “MLTI has been around for 20 years, and we would like it to be around for many, many more years to come.”

Stakeholder presenting feedback

Over the course of the next few hours the group was split off into four smaller groups, each tasked with identifying values, concerns, and suggestions on large sheets of chart paper. A summary of those lists was then shared out with the entire group before the session ended prior to lunch.

Meanwhile in another session, a group was discussing the answers to a specific set of questions posed by Maine DOE Deputy Director of the Office of Special Services, Ann Belanger:

  • What is the most challenging aspect of the special education process?
  • Do you find the Maine Unified Special Education Regulations (MUSER) user friendly? What would make them more user friendly?
  • How can the Maine Department of Education support districts and parents in providing services to students with disabilities?
  • Are there topics/issues about which you feel that more information and/or training is needed? What are they?
  • Are there practices and/or policies that create barriers for students with disabilities?

Stakeholders engaged in worksessionParticipants then shared their collaborative responses with the entire group, working together to carefully record all the responses in notes. The group then worked together to create the ideal special education program, detailing the processes that would need to be involved to create this type of ideal setting.

For the session about redefining school success, Mary Paine, the Director of a new Office of School Success, introduced an initiative that engages educators, students, parents, and communities in conversations about what they think makes a school successful. Her session worked to further engage with stakeholders on this topic. The framework that results from the Maine Defines School Success statewide dialog will eventually complement Maine’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan by providing a broader set of indicators of success in Maine’s schools. In addition to being part of the Think Tanks series, the school success discussion will continue in school communities throughout the state over the course of the next school year.

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Led by Maine DOE’s Office of Higher Education and Educator Support Services, the educator readiness session prompted participants to discuss talent needs that are ideal for teacher candidates including pre-service and in-service, as well as what is needed to ensure teachers are prepared for equity and diversity in the classroom.

Each session resulted in walls of chart paper filled with written notes detailing suggestions, ideas, concerns, values, and much more. “We are pleased with the participation and appreciate that folks were willing to join us in these discussions across the State,” said Deputy Commissioner Chuhta.

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Following the July 8th event there will be an additional Think Tank held in Winter Harbor this fall to discuss the same topics and the Department is also planning to release a survey for those unable to participate in discussion topics at the Think Tanks already held.

“In the works is a new section of the Maine DOE website dedicated to the Think Tanks where the transcribed notes from each of the sessions will be available along with other information,” said Chuhta. “In the coming months, the notes will be synthesized to help us determine next steps and guide decision making on the topics discussed,” he added.

In a continuation of the Think Tank Series, the Department is expecting to launch another round of Think Tanks on a different set of topics over the course of the coming school year.

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: Amendments to Educator Evaluation Requirements

Administrative Letter:  #25
Policy Code:   BGE
To: Public School Administrators, Teachers
From: Pender Makin, Commissioner
Date:  11 June 2019
Subject: Amendments to Title 20-A, Chapter 508, Educator Effectiveness

On April 11, 2019, Governor Mills signed a law that makes important changes to Performance  Evaluation and Professional Growth (PEPG) systems. The new law will go into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends. Chapter 27, An Act to Amend Educator Evaluation Requirements, includes a number of changes.

  1. Under the new law, school administrative units may choose to identify and include student learning and growth measures that they deem valuable in summative effectiveness ratings, but they are no longer required to do so.
  2. SAUs must ensure or reconfigure their steering committee membership, such that a majority are teachers who are chosen by a representative of the applicable collective bargaining unit.
  3. The law states that, “revisions to the performance evaluation and professional growth system made by the steering committee must be reached by consensus.”

Implementation Guidance

  • The steering committee composition required in Chapter 27 will go into effect 90 days after the current legislative session comes to an end, likely near the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
  • The Department of Education is committed to a transparent and inclusive rule-making process for Chapter 180 that will begin in early fall of 2019, in preparation for the submission of the draft rules for consideration to the Committee for Education and Cultural Affairs in January, 2020.
  • Current law requires that student learning and growth measures must be a factor in a summative effectiveness rating until September 1, 2021.  PEPG steering committees are encouraged to review their current PEPG systems, and the vision, mission, and goals of the district, to determine the measures of effectiveness they will implement beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. In addition, the committee should develop reasonable transition plans and timelines for any changes to the PEPG system, as determined by the steering committee, taking into consideration the existing evaluation cycle, and when summative evaluations will be completed.

For more information, please contact Emily Gribben at Emily.gribben@maine.gov.