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.

Mid-Maine Tech Center Students Improving Their Community, One Glass of Water at a Time

A team of chemistry students from Waterville Senior High School collected 85 water samples from different locations in Waterville, which were sent to the  Dartmouth Lab for analysis. Fifteen of the samples tested positive for arsenic—so the class researched inexpensive filters called Zero Water to keep water arsenic-free and make their community safer.

The project was covered by a team of Mass Media Communications students at Mid-Maine Technical Center (MMTC) as part of the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. MMTC is the only school in Maine that hosts this program. It was presented on Maine Public Television and nationally on PBS Nature’s American Spring LIVE, and won third place in a national STEM Film Festival hosted by PBS.

Maine Spring Live – Clean Water from Mid-Maine Technical Center on Vimeo.

This story was written by Maine DOE Intern Emmeline Willey. If you have a story idea or would like to submit a written story for the Maine DOE Newsroom, email Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Freeport Girls Code Their Way to Finals 

As the computer-savvy become a more and more heavily sought-after breed of employee, young women across the nation are getting a head start in this growing field. GirlsGoCyberStart, a competitive, multi-leveled program, is teaching them the ins and outs of cybersecurity before they even graduate. Through various games, teens are honing skills in cryptography, web vulnerabilities, Python, Linux and forensics—and learning teamwork and determination along the way. 

“Cybersecurity is a growing and critical field. It is more important than ever before to train skilled experts in Maine and across the nation to defend our national and financial security,” said Governor Janet Mills at the launch of the program’s second year in February. Last year, almost 200 students from the State participated. “This program will help young women pursue the education and training they need for lifelong careers and leadership positions in cybersecurity.” 

Several Clubs from Maine entered the CyberStart competition. Each group of skilled teens would code their way through three levels of increasingly tough competition. 9,500 girls from across the nation entered the ring at the first stage back in February. Two participation challenges were also run, to encourage more girls to get involved. For every five girls registered to a Club who completed at least two challenges, their school would be entered once in the running for a $1,000 prize. At the end of the ‘Assess’ stage, in which girls are evaluated for their aptitude with code and security through a series of challenges, the three Clubs in each State with the most girls registered (having completed at least one challenge) will receive prize money by place in totals of $1,000, $750, and $500. Those winners from Maine this year were, in order: 

  • Hancock County Technical Center (1st) 
  • Deering High School (2nd) 
  • Sanford High School (3rd) 

The top schools in each state are decided by the second round, and those then proceed onto the Championship ‘Capture the Flag’ round. The CyberGEMS of Freeport High School were among the 120 schools to make it to the Championship, placing 87th in this final round. The team was comprised of four precocious teens who were nominated by their Club: Dena Arrison, Leah Rusecki, Taylor Harris, and Rachel Packard. 

Rusecki, a sophomore, commented in a press release prior to the Championship, “My class schedule is quite full, but having the chance to explore computer technology outside of regular classes is a great opportunity for us. Solving the cybersecurity puzzles and challenges has been really interesting! I hope to take a computer programming class next year.” 

Each member of the CyberGEMS took home $100, as well as an additional $100 for their school. More than that, every girl who participated in some level of the competition developed skills vital to the rapidly growing cybersecurity field—and with results from last year showing that number of students interested in cybersecurity doubled after playing, these students show promise at filling more of these high-paying, challenging jobs in the future. 

This story was written by Maine DOE Intern Emmeline Willey. If you have a story idea or would like to submit a written story for the Maine DOE Newsroom, email Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

MEDIA RELEASE: 1200+ Students Attend Annual MLTI Student Conference at UMaine Hosted by Maine DOE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Kelli Deveaux (207) 624-6747 or kelli.deveaux@maine.gov

Orono – More than 1200 middle and high school students from schools across Maine gathered today at the University of Maine at Orono for the Maine Department of Education’s Annual Maine Learning Through Technology Initiative (MLTI) Student Conference. The event is held each year to engage students in technology related learning.

The opening of the event featured Abby Sanborn from Sacopee Valley Middle School, in addition to student-led sessions where participants can learn a skill from their peers, and then create something using technology to take back to their schools. This year, in a special surprise for students, mascots from Maine’s public universities were on hand as part of a fun technology challenge and to highlight how a young learner can “apply yourself,” through the university system’s youth development and early college programs.

“Maine’s public universities provide a tremendous and growing number of youth development opportunities on our campuses, at our 4-H camps, and in partnership with local schools,” said Dr. Carol Kim, Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for the University of Maine System.  “This year 3,500 Maine high school students earned low and no cost college credit through our early college programs and we will provide enrichment and learning programs for 20,000 Maine youth through our 4-H camps and community programs.”

In a fun and interactive story line, UMaine’s mascot, Bananas, got himself trapped in a virtual world, and needed help!  His friends Augustus, Chompers, Benny, Hootie, Champ- the mascots from University of Maine Augusta, University of Maine Farmington, University of Maine Fort Kent, University of Maine Presque Isle, and University of Southern Maine, respectively- arrived on the scene, but needed the students to assist. Divided into teams, the students all worked collaboratively to solve puzzles and gather keys in order to free Bananas.

In addition to a great experience and new learning, 10 students left with $1,000 scholarships, should they choose to attend University of Maine in the future, and each campus raffled off their own swag bags. Educate Maine got into the mix when 5 more students got cool electronics, and all left with their eyes on future opportunities in Maine.

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Learning for the 21st Century- a Professional Development Opportunity for Educators

Join the Maine Department of Education as we explore knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for 21st century careers as well as the intentional actions of educators that support students’ skill and will to fuel their learning. During these day-long workshops, participants will delve into the principles of formative assessment as they examine strategies for building units of instruction that integrate multiple content areas. Sessions will be led by teams of the Department’s content specialists. Units will integrate combinations of world language, social studies, visual and performing arts, science, English language arts, health education and physical education, and mathematics. Units will also incorporate strategies for technology integration and family engagement.

Structure of the Day:

School districts are strongly encouraged to attend as teams of three or more people. Teams will gather at the beginning of the day for a panel presentation and discussion. Then, team members will attend breakout sessions where they will experience integrated lessons and units incorporating the principles of formative assessment drawn from Hattie, Fisher and Frey’s (2018) Developing Assessment Capable Learners text. Finally, at the end of the day, teams will reconvene to share, process, and apply what they experienced in the breakout sessions, as well as have opportunity to connect with other teams to gather additional ideas.

Team Configuration:

Teams may include PK-12 educators, administrators, instructional coaches, and special education instructors.  Schools are encouraged to include representation from multiple grade levels and all content areas when forming teams and to divide up team members across breakout sessions.  The time at the end of the day will be more productive if participants attend as part of a team, but if an educator attends without a team, accommodations will be made to group single participants for sharing and planning. When registering participants, be sure to gather information about which breakout session each will attend.  Session descriptions are included below.

Registration Dates/Locations/Links:

Elementary (Pk-5):

July 9th at the Ramada in Lewiston, 8:30-3:30

July 24th at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer, 8:30-3:30

Secondary (6-12):

July 10th at the Ramada in Lewiston, 8:30-3:30

July 25th at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer, 8:30-3:30

Registration Cost:

$75/team of 3 or $30/ person.  Individual registrations are accepted but teams are strongly encouraged.  Register by June 28, 2019.  Credit or debit cards are necessary for registration.  Cancellations must be made at least a week prior to the event to be eligible for a refund.  A morning snack and lunch will be provided. Participants will earn 6 contact hours.

For more information please contact Lee Anne Larsen, leeann.larsen@maine.gov or Beth Lambert, beth.lambert@maine.gov.

 

PK-5 Breakout Session Selections

Session 1: Laying a Foundation for Future Learning

Wendy L. Ostroff describes curiosity as being aware and open, checking things out, experimenting and interacting within one’s surroundings. Come explore with us ways to create the conditions for curiosity in the PK-5 classrooms. Together, specialists in Career and Education Development, Early Childhood Learning, Physical Education, and World Languages have designed learning experiences to pique curiosity about inventors, inventions and innovations and how they change daily life.  Presented by Maine DOE Specialists Jean Zimmerman (Physical Education), Lavinia Rogers (World Languages), Nicole Madore (Early Childhood), and Diana Doiron (Career and Education Development).

Session 2: Mimicking Animals

Humans have imitated and mimicked animal characteristics for as long as man has walked the earth. In this strand we will explore how humans use strategies inspired by nature to solve health and safety problems, then to communicate those out while embracing strategies that are proven to advance student learning and develop assessment capable learners.  Presented by Maine DOE Specialists Danielle Saucier (English Language Arts), Susan Berry (Health Education), and Shari Templeton (Science).

Session 3: Putting the You in Comm_nity

It takes a community to raise a child and this includes making sure that students understand that they are part of a bigger world. Take a look at what it means to be part of a community through the eyes of early childhood, visual and performing arts, and social studies as we explore an integrated approach to instruction that focuses on helping students take ownership in their own learning. Presented by Maine DOE Specialists Joe Schmidt (Social Studies), Nate Menifield (Visual and Performing Arts), and Sue Reed (Early Childhood).

6-12 Breakout Session Selections

Session 1:  To Tell the Truth: Using Decision-Making to Your Advantage

As the rate of change in the world increases faster than ever imagined, students need to be able to think on their feet, process new information, and make good decisions. Come explore with us ways to support students to think critically about the world around them by examining how Career and Education Development, Health Education, and Social Studies could use problem solving to develop decision-making skills that are necessary for success both in and out of the classroom.  Presented by Maine DOE Specialists Susan Berry (Health Education), Joe Schmidt (Social Studies), and Diana Doiron (Career and Education Development).

Session 2:  Graphical Literacy, S’il Vous Plait

World Languages, Mathematics and Science all build upon knowing how to read and interpret data found in a variety of graphical formats. We will utilize graphs to tell a story and to explore the intersections between content areas while practicing proven strategies that move the needle on student learning. Presented by Maine DOE Specialists Lavinia Rogers (World Languages), Michele Mailhot (Math), and Shari Templeton (Science). 

Session 3:  STRENGTH AND STAMINA: SUPPORTING ASSESSMENT CAPABLE LEARNERS

In Visual & Performing Arts, Health & Physical Education, and English Language Arts

Building learning strength requires a growth mindset to set goals that are challenging and reachable. Building leaning stamina involves persistence, problem solving, planning, and practice. VPA, HPE, and ELA specialists will provide support for evaluating learning to set growth goals and model strategies for building stamina while focusing on the student’s overall experience throughout the school day, the school year, or the education pathway. Presented by Maine DOE Specialists Jean Zimmerman (Physical Education), Morgan Dunton (English Language Arts), and Nate Menifield (Visual and Performing Arts).