Maine DOE Announces 4th Annual Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge

Summer vacation is a welcome break from the daily school routine for children and parents alike, but the summer months can be detrimental to students’ learning if young minds do not remain active. Summer learning loss is a well-documented phenomenon, particularly with respect to reading achievement.  Students can lose up to three months of reading progress during the summer if they don’t keep reading.  When combined across a child’s PK-8 school career, this can result in 1-2 years of lost reading progress.

Fortunately, the summer slide can be prevented or greatly reduced when students continue to read on a regular basis. By encouraging children to read for enjoyment from a variety of resources and to explore topics of interest, they continue to practice applying the skills they have learned, build their vocabulary, and widen their knowledge of the world.  For students who are not yet reading independently, or just beginning to read, reading to and with parents is equally beneficial.

Once again this year, the Maine Department of Education is collaborating with the Freemasons of Maine to sponsor the Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge for students in grades PK-8.  The Maine Freemasons have generously donated 48 bikes with helmets as prizes for the Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge.  During the first three years of this initiative, thousands of Maine children completed the challenge of reading 500 minutes during the summer vacation.  Maine DOE hopes to see this number grow even higher during the summer of 2019.

Any school with students in the PK-8 grade span may register to participate. Participating schools will collect documentation from students who have completed the challenge. They will hold school level drawings to select two students (one boy and one girl) whose names will be entered into the state level drawing to be held on September 25, 2019.   Schools are encouraged to participate in this challenge, to coordinate it with any other summer reading challenges/programs they offer, and to consider soliciting their own local level prizes for students who complete the challenge.  Find details and the link to register your school at the Read to Ride Challenge website.

Questions may be directed to Maine DOE’s Elementary Literacy Specialist, Danielle Saucier at danielle.m.saucier@maine.gov.

 

 

 

Tips for Supporting Muslim Students During Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr

Maine is home to many Muslim families, and the Maine Department of Education would like to provide some general information about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr to schools, so they can support their schools’ Muslim community members as they enjoy this very special time of year.

Ramadan is a month-long fast observed by Muslims around the world. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. To wish someone a happy Ramadan, you can say “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak.”

This year, in the United States Ramadan will start around May 5th and end around June 4th. The official beginning and end of the month of Ramadan will not be announced until the sighting of the new moon. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan happens about 11 days earlier each year.

During Ramadan, most Muslims fast (i.e., consume no food or water) from dawn to dusk. Many Muslims also pray more frequently and make special efforts to be kind, generous, and compassionate. This is a joyous time of year, and each Iftar (post-sunset meal to break the fast) is a celebrated opportunity to gather with friends and family. Muslims may also wake before dawn to eat Suhoor (a pre-dawn meal), which helps give them energy to endure the day’s fast. (Iftar and Suhoor timings can be found here.) For some Muslims, the typical patterns of sleep are shifted so that more waking hours occur during the night, which can make it difficult to wake up early and stay alert during the day.

Typically, very young children do not fast or may fast only part of the day. Some Muslims may not fast when they are travelling, ill, pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating. In these cases, fasting days can be made up for at a later time. Elderly and chronically ill people who are not well enough to fast may give charitably instead.

After Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr (the festival of breaking the fast) is a three-day celebration with feasts and gatherings of families. This is an extremely important and cheerful time of year for Muslims, and students will likely be absent for all or part of the three days. Children often receive a new outfit or a small amount of money as a gift from their family for the holiday. To wish someone a happy Eid, you can say, “Eid Saeed” or “Eid Mubarak.”

Here are a few tips for supporting students during Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

  1. Learn about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

There are many resources available online that can help you understand how and why Ramadan is observed. Keep in mind that practices may vary depending on culture, so your students and their families are the best sources of information about their Ramadan traditions. Here are a couple of articles that give a general overview.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/what-ramadan-six-things-know-about-muslim-holy-month-n586426

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/ramadan

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eid-al-Fitr

  1. Encourage cultural sensitivity for all school community members.

Fasting can have many physical and mental effects, such as fatigue, lack of concentration, and irritability. For your students, your understanding and support can help ensure that they continue to learn and make the most out of their time at school while fasting. Teachers, school nurses, sports coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, and all other staff who interact with students will need to know how fasting can affect students.

Talking with staff and students about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr helps encourage an atmosphere of cultural awareness and sensitivity for the whole school community. Sensitivity towards fasting students includes avoiding consuming food and beverages in front of them whenever possible. Consider holding any celebrations that include food, such as awards banquets, after Iftar (sunset).

  1. Ask students and their families how you can best support them.

Some schools may choose to offer a place for students to go during lunchtime, alternative options for physical education, or dedicated prayer spaces. Schools may also avoid scheduling assessments or other required activities during Eid-al-Fitr, when students are likely to be absent. The best way to ensure that your school is a supportive, culturally-aware learning environment is to involve students, families, and other community members in planning and policy creation. Check out these two articles for some practical ideas that may benefit fasting students.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/column-teachers-can-support-students-ramadan

http://www.isre.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Schools-Guide-to-Ramadan-2.pdf

  1. Have a clear, well-communicated policy on tardies and absences.

Maine’s statute on excused absences is Title 20-A, Section §3272. It states that an absence is excused when it is for “observance of a recognized religious holiday when the observance is required during the regular school day and the absence has prior approval.” Fasting during Ramadan is a required religious observance, and the physical and mental demands of fasting may cause students’ tardies and absences to increase. Eid-al-Fitr celebrations are also religious observances. Districts will need to share clear expectations for attendance with students and families. It is highly recommended to develop these expectations in collaboration with your community members, recognizing that interpretation and translation may be necessary to ensure meaningful communication.

 

Updated Language Use Survey Now Available

Through the concerted efforts and dedication of our English Learner Advisory Council, and with feedback from our colleagues in the field, the Department of Education has refined our statewide Language Use Survey. We believe these minor changes have created a more quality document that will aid in ensuring valid identification.

As part of our consistent, statewide process for identifying English learners, as is required by ESSA, all Maine districts are asked to administer this new and improved Maine DOE Language Use Survey to the parents/guardians of students enrolling in the district for the first time.

For convenience and cost-savings, the updated Language Use Survey is available on the Maine DOE website in English, and 25 other languages. We have also created a short video to assist those who are administering the Language Use Survey and encourage others, such as building administrators and classroom teachers, to familiarize themselves with the survey and how students are classified as English learners.

For guidance on English learner identification, please refer to the resource and policy guide, Serving Maine’s English Learners, or if you have any questions, please contact:

April Perkins
Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III
Office: (207)624-6627
Cell: (207)441-9043
april.perkins@maine.gov

Administrative Letter: Clarification on Requirement to Ensure Parents’ Meaningful Access to IEP Information

Administrative Letter: #23
Policy Code:  BGE
To: Public School Administrators, Special Ed. Directors, EL Coordinators/Directors, and ESOL Teachers
From: Pender Makin, Commissioner
Date:  March 12, 2019
Subject: Clarification on Requirement to Ensure Parents’ Meaningful Access to IEP Information

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees parents’ right to receive communication from their children’s schools in a language they can understand. The US Department of Education has provided guidance (PDF) clarifying that, “State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) have flexibility in determining what mix of oral and written translation services may be necessary and reasonable for communicating the required information to parents with limited English proficiency.”

For parents of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), LEAs must ensure that parents are able to understand the proceedings of the IEP meeting and access the IEP document as needed.

In a 2007 letter (PDF) to Conway Public Schools in Arkansas, the Office of Special Education (OSEP) indicated that, “while providing written translations of IEP documents is not required under IDEA, we believe in some circumstances it may help to show that a parent has been fully informed of the services his or her child will be receiving.”

A 2016 Dear Colleague Letter (PDF) from OSEP states that, “Under Title VI, all vital documents, including a student’s IEP, must be accessible to Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents, but that does not necessarily mean that all vital documents must be translated for every language in the district. For example, a timely and complete oral interpretation or translated summary of a vital document might suffice in some circumstances. A district must, however, be prepared to provide timely and complete translated IEPs to provide meaningful access to the IEP and the parental rights that attach to it. This is because a parent needs meaningful access to the IEP not just during the IEP meeting, but also across school years to monitor the child’s progress and ensure that IEP services are provided.”

This notice does not serve as legal advice, and LEAs should consult legal staff and/or the Office for Civil Rights for guidance pertaining to their specific contexts.

The Maine Department of Education would like to acknowledge and thank Maine’s special education directors, administrators, and educators for ensuring federal and state regulations for educating students with special needs are met, and for their ongoing dedication to the students and families that these processes serve.

For further information about translation/interpretation please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III at (207) 624-6627 or april.perkins@maine.gov. For further information about supporting students with an IEP, please contact Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services at (207) 624-6713.

Guidance Regarding Automated Translation/Interpretation Services

As Maine districts have experienced increasing numbers of students and parents who speak languages other than English, there has also been an increase in the availability of machine or automated translation/interpretation software and apps. While these tools may seem like a convenient (and oftentimes free) way to meet a district’s civil rights obligations for communicating with parents, they have not yet reached the level of accuracy necessary to serve as a substitute for a qualified human translator/interpreter. Meaningful communication with parents, including parents whose children have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), is not only a civil rights requirement, but it also serves to strengthen family engagement and promote positive relationships between families and schools.

A 2015 guidance document from the US Department of Justice and US Department of Education clarifies that even a bilingual person without appropriate training cannot be used by a school to translate/interpret for parents. Whether for the vital communications listed in this guidance document or for more casual interactions, best practice is always to utilize trained professionals, such as through a phone interpretation service or translation/interpretation agency.

For a list of translation/interpretation providers, please refer to the Maine Department of Education website. For parent notices required under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Maine Department of Education has partnered with TransACT to give districts free access to notices in 17 languages.

For further information about translation/interpretation please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III at (207) 624-6627 or april.perkins@maine.gov. For further information about supporting students with an IEP, please contact Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services at (207) 624-6713.