Archive for the ‘Standards Based Education’ Category


MAAI Winter Retreat

March 5, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leaders taking the lead

MAAI Group Feb28bLast weekend the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative Teacher Leaders met in Rockland for a professional development opportunity and for phase 5 planning. This is a yearly event, that is not only productive – generating ideas to meet the needs of arts teachers, but it is also a great opportunity to meet with cherished colleagues.

On Friday night Sarah Swain provided a workshop that was called Advocacy Video Creation. The goal was to learn basic technical and design aspects of video-making. The essential questions were: How can video be used as an effective communication tool? and How can I create videos with the visual interest that engage and inform the viewer? Participants created videos on a variety of topics. Thank you Sarah for sharing your wisdom and expertise!

On Saturday the Teacher Leaders met all day at the Gamble Center at the Farnsworth Art Museum. We reflected on Phase 4, celebrated the many accomplishments of individuals, and were provided updates on the work underway. Among the parts to celebrate are how several Teacher Leaders are taking on leadership roles in their schools and/or districts across the state.

Participants were asked to self-reflect on their individual teacher needs on the following topics:  Proficiency-Based Education, Teacher Effectiveness, Students-centered learning, Creativity, Technology, Assessment, Advocacy, Arts Integration.  They each brought an artifact that is symbolic of their MAAI journey. (Where you were, where you are, and where you may be headed?)

This lead to the next part of the day sharing artifacts and noticing similarities among the Teacher Leaders. This helped in determining the goals for all regions of Maine. The goals were condensed for a carousel exercise that generated SOOOOOO MANY WONDERFUL ideas on how to address your needs.

The day ended with a quick feedback that generated a Wordle. This wordle was based on the following question: Write 1-2 words that describe your feelings about MAAI based on your experiences.Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 10.01.23 PM

And this Wordle was based on the following question: Write 1-2 words that describe your feelings about MAAI as you plan for future activities and professional development.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 10.03.10 PMWe are all looking forward to Phase 5 and we intend to celebrate and I can guarantee you that the many ideas have your best interest in mind to assist you in dealing with the teaching challenges of today.

In the near future I will post the “call for teacher leaders” for Phase 5 of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative. I hope that you will consider taking on this role. Watch the blog for information.

Thank you to Mount Desert Island High School Art educator Charlie Johnson for creating this video showing the highlights of the MAAI Winter Retreat.



Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Theresa Cerceo

February 24, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leaders series

This is the second blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. You can learn more about MAAI at and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.

Theresa CerceoTheresa Cerceo is in her ninth year teacheing Visual Arts, K – 12 with MSAD 33 in Frenchville / St Agatha school district. Check on the map, it is WAY UP NORTH! She teaches full time;  I teach full time; middle / high school in the morning (four times a week) and elementary in the afternoon (each class once a week). In addition to teaching art, Theresa is a certified Gifted and Talented teacher and works with students in this capacity for Visual and Language Arts enrichment.  At the elementary level, she helps facilitate Language Arts, Science and Math Skill Seminars as part of the school-wide daily schedule. These seminars occur for 45 minute Monday – Thursday and change topics every two weeks. Also, Theresa serves on the school district’s Leadership Team for Learner – Centered Proficiency-Based Learning. Before moving to Maine in 2006, she lived in (my home town) Philadelphia.  There, she spent some time at Tyler School of Art (Temple University) before receiving a BFA from Rosemont College and an MAT (Visual Arts) from the University of the Arts.  In addition to working for the Main Line Art Center and the University of the Arts as an arts teacher in their children’s weekend and summer programs,  she taught art for 3 years within Philadelphia and the surrounding area at the elementary, middle and high school level.

What do you like best about being a visual art educator?

What I enjoy most about being an art educator is being able to provide an opportunity for students to engage in one of our basic human instincts, to create. I am humbled that I can assist in nurturing a child’s ability to express their unique identity while providing them the knowledge in skills and  techniques so that they may communicate more effectively.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

In addition to administrative support, I believe love and personal commitment for one’s content, assessment supported curriculum, and teacher flexibility are the three keys to providing a successful art education.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Good assessments offer me a tool in which I can communicate with my students regarding expectations and their growth. It allows me to plan for what students need and how they need instruction delivered. This allows me to make their time in my room as individualized as possible.  Students see constructive feedback regarding their thought processes and skills and then, they can set real goals that are meaningful to them. I am finding that this facilitates not only skill and concept development, but a deeper appreciation for their time spent in art class.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Becoming involved with MAAI has given me the tools and support to establish my voice in my district. By attending Mega-Regionals and then going through the Teacher Leader training I have gained the knowledge base to establish the arts as an academic subject. At the core, what I have gained through MAAI is the knowledge that I am no longer an isolated arts teacher; that I am part of  a large group of educators that believe that the Arts are essential to human development; they understand why and they are committed to strengthening arts education and advocacy for the arts in Maine. This has reinvigorated my passion for teaching as well as my commitment to building the best art program possible.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of my personal growth as an educator. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time developing, reflecting and revising my curriculum and it has gone from a basic outline of what I thought was important for students to know (based on my personal experiences as a student and my personal interests),  to a more (teacher – student) collaborative piece that allows for exploration and discovery, reflection and personal goal setting. The most important thing I have learned, and I am still developing is flexibility in terms of instruction. A concept may be important for all students to get, but the way I deliver it might change from class to class depending on their readiness level, learning styles or even time constraints. I strive to treat students as individuals and to allow the art room to be a place where they can make personal connections to the materials and techniques offered and feel safe to make mistakes and to grow. Although this was always my theory about how an art classroom should run, it took me time and a lot of reflection and revision in order to reach a place where I can feel I am closer to this goal.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher? 

I think we can often get in our own way through self doubt or rigidity in our thinking. I realize now, I used to act as though students should be the kind of student I was or should care about the subject matter I find important. Teaching through this paradigm produced some success but not much growth or the overall “ love for the arts” I was hoping to foster. By surveying students, hearing other teachers, reflecting, and trying new ideas, I feel I learned a lot about myself and how to be a better teacher.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances? 

I am not sure. I guess I believe luck can only get you so far. For real success to happen, hard work and determination has to be part of it.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

My advice is; do what you know is right, honor your natural instincts and let your classroom be a reflection of who you are and how you want the world to be.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

If the money went to my classrooms, I would build a ceramics studio at both schools.  If it was for me to use personally,  I’d get an RV and travel around all the parts of the US I have never seen and/or start an arts center.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets? 

No, I believe all the parts of our journey offer learning experiences to help us evolve.  And, as we go through the various ins and outs of our life, we influence and are influenced by those around us.   As long as we keep learning from our mistakes, working positively and honestly toward our goals, there is nothing to regret.



Visual Arts PD Opp

February 21, 2015

Professional development opportunity for visual art educators 

An invitation from Catherine Ring, Ex. Director, New England Institute for Teacher Education

I’d like to personally let you know of a special opportunity coming up right in Augusta, starting MARCH 14 — a 3 credit course on Visual Art Assessment, K-12.  The course will meet for two weekend sessions, March 14 and May 9.

You might wonder, how can I add this to my already full plate?  Is Assessment really necessary, or even possible, in an art room when I see so many students?  It really doesn’t matter where you are on the Assessment bandwagon — both experienced and teachers new to assessment in visual art classrooms have taken this course. There’s always more to learn, and this course gives you the time to talk and learn and try things out — imagine that!

You’ll be surprised at how much art teachers learn from each other – and that’s just what we do! We share resources that arts educators have created or discovered through the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, ask hard questions, problem-solve, try some things out in our classrooms, and figure out what we CAN do in our very busy schedules to help improve teaching, learning and assessment.  The course meets for two weekends only – Friday night (4-8pm) and Saturday (8-4pm) with weekly contact with the instructor, in between.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 4.33.54 PMWe’re especially delighted to announce that Lisa Ingraham will be teaching the course for the New England Institute this spring. Lisa has taught Visual Art for ten years and has been a Teacher Leader in the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative since 2013.  She has a BA in Graphic Design and Illustration from Western Connecticut State University and a MS in Education from Thomas College. Lisa has collaborated with other visual and performing arts teachers from around the state of Maine in reflecting on assessment and designing professional development presentations for regional workshops. Lisa is currently the Secretary and Advocacy Co-chair for the Maine Art Education Association, and is working toward her endorsement in Gifted and Talented Education.

So come join us and find out what’s happening in Maine with assessment in visual art, and with meeting proficiency in the art room. You will be excited to know that arts educators are leading the way and other educators are following suit.  Here are the details:

EDPO 536: Refining Assessment in the Visual Art Classroom, K-12

Augusta, Maine (Viles Arboretum)

Session 1:  Saturday (8-4pm), March 14

Session 2:  Saturday (8-4pm) May 9

This course meets for both sessions

You can choose to take this as a graduate course through our partnership with Endicott College, or for recertification credits for 4.5 CEUs. We can bill your school directly with a purchase order, or are happy to make payment arrangements.

To register, please visit the New England Institute website at If you have any questions at all, pick up the phone and call me any time, or email me.

Thank you! We hope to hear from you!

Catherine Ring

Executive Director

New England Institute for Teacher Education

PO Box 460

Stonington, Maine 04681




Another Teacher’s Story: Kate Smith

February 17, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leader series

This is the first blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others.  You can learn more about MAAI at and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 3.58.23 PMKate Smith is an elementary music teacher at Central Elementary School in South Berwick where she teaches 400 students in PreK through third grade. PreK students receive half a year of music, 30 minutes a week. Kindergarten receive 30 minutes a week and First through Third Grade receive 50 minutes a week. Kate also offers second and third grade chorus during January and February for 30 minutes a week. Prior to teaching at Central, Kate was the Music Director at Presentation of Mary Academy, a private all-girl high school in Methuen, MA. Kate received her bachelor’s degree from USM in 1998 and her Master’s in Technology in Education from Lesley University in 2011. Kate is the Outdoor Classroom Coordinator at her school and the 2014 York County Teacher of the Year and the 2015 District 11 VFW Teacher of the Year.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

The joy on the children’s faces each day as they experience music in its many forms.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1.  Highly trained passionate and effective educators.
  2.  A well planned curriculum with meaningful objectives
  3.  Support from the administration, staff and community. Support should come not only in the form of adequate funding but also through parent involvement and authentic opportunities for collaboration and integration with peers. The Arts MUST have a place at the table.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Assessments tell me where we are and inform my next destination. Without them I am left to guess (or worse, assume) that students understand and can perform the content. Frequent assessment assures me they still remember or allows me to fill in the gaps. I refer to my favorite form of assessment as “dipstick” assessments, kind of like checking the oil in your car. Quick, easy and essential. Student centered assessment and proficiency based assessment mean the kids know I am with them to the end. I am going to differentiate until I find the right method for their learning style and I am not going to quit until they have met their objectives.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

There are so many benefits!!! For one, the teacher leaders are like one big family. Everyone is incredibly helpful and supportive. There are many readily available resources through the initiative that take the guess work out of creating authentic, effective assessments. Best of all, it is a “Judgement Free” Zone. Everyone realizes no journey is the same. We have all received vastly different levels of professional development through our individual districts, and that’s okay The point is to move forward from wherever you find yourself through the arts assessment initiative.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My students. My growth as a teacher too. I am constantly learning and willing to take risks.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Isolation. We are often the only music, art or drama teacher in our building. It’s really important that we find ways (and time!) to observe each other, collaborate with each other and share resources. Technology can make this possible, but we have to be willing to take risks, step out of our comfort zones and open ourselves to opportunities for powerful collaboration and personal reflection.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Relationships and connections. These include community members, parents, staff, local businesses, our education foundation, local musicians, artists and past and present students.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Drink water. Eat breakfast. Go for walks. Build a PLC (personal learning community) comprised of exceptional Arts teachers . Read for pleasure. Go on vacations or staycations. Rest. Remember, you need to be at your best for these kids, they deserve it.

If you were given $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would split it three ways-

  1. a donation to our local education foundation
  2. establish after-school Visual and Performing Arts classes, Culinary Arts programs, and Gardening classes for South Berwick residents ages 3-103.
  3. a donation to Copper Cannon Camp, a free fresh air camp for underprivileged children, located in Bethlehem NH.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I am a visionary. We don’t look back. My grandparents never stopped making a difference in other people’s lives. Even in their 90s. I intend to follow in their footsteps.

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February 3, 2015

Opportunities for contact hours

Last week the paperwork arrived from the Maine Department of Education Certification office informing me that it is time to resubmit paperwork and a check to continue my certification for another five years. I was a bit nervous since I am not in a school district with a certification committee to help guide me if I have any questions. I read through the paperwork three times just to be sure I understood all that I had to do.

I dragged out my portfolio where I file my proof of contact hours and CEUs looking for the magic “90” hours. I stacked them in order and copied them highlighting the hours so it would be easy to get a total. I was surprised to learn that I had over 200 contact hours.

Periodically I receive desperate emails from teachers asking if I know of any professional development opportunities since they’ve received the same envelope that I did and that they don’t have enough hours. Quite frankly, I am not sure how, in this day and age, someone can not have enough!

For example, the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) is offering five professional development opportunities during this school year throughout Maine.

Details and registration information is available at Each site has different offerings and you can attend one or more.

The cost is $25 and 5.5 contact hours are offered.

I made that last part nice and large so you can see the contact hour offering quite clearly.

Locations and Dates

Schedule for each Mega-regional

  • 8:15 a.m. Registration begins
  • 8:45 a.m. Opening Session and Morning Workshops
  • 9:10 – 10:20 a.m. Breakout Workshop Session I
  • 10:20 – 10:30 a.m. Break
  • 10:30 – 11:40 a.m. Breakout Workshop Session II
  • 11:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch, participants on their own
  • 12:30 – 12:45 p.m. Artist Showcase
  • 12:45 – 2:45 p.m. Session III Large group by Arts Discipline on Proficiency-Based Education and Teacher Effectiveness
  • 2:45 – 3:00 p.m. Closing Session

Maai group 2PM Session

The Arts and Proficiency: What, Why and How?

The afternoon session will be focused around group discussions utilizing key questions on how proficiency (and teacher effectiveness) is being implemented across the state of Maine in our own arts classrooms. Participants will leave with concrete ideas and/or plans to facilitate their own actions. These may lead to breakout sessions to deeper discussions and common concerns. This session will be separated between visual and performing arts teachers.

I hope that you will take advantage of these opportunities to learn from and with your colleagues. Maine has a wonderful network of visual and performing arts teachers who are willing to collaborate and share information. We are so fortunate! Please email me at if you have any questions.





Celebrating PBE

January 12, 2015

Transitioning to Proficiency Based Education (PBE)

I am well aware of the difficult task educators have taken on across the state of Maine. Each week I receive emails and/or phone calls from visual or performing arts teachers with questions and concerns about the PBE work underway. Fortunately, the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) presently has PBE at the heart of our work. And, thanks to Rob Westerberg, MAAI Leadership Team member and York High School music teacher, who has created the Maine Arts Assessment website at to assist you as teachers tackling this task, alone or with colleagues. MAAI is committed to shifting our work to respond to the challenges of the arts classrooms across the state. If you reach out and connect with the MAAI Teacher Leaders or Leadership Team members, no one needs to feel like an island. Contact information is on the site included above or please contact me at

As is the case, at any time in educational reform, districts are at different places with the work. At the end of the first grading term earlier this year, I saw one of the MAAI teacher leaders who was very excited to share what was happening in her school. I asked her to write it down and send it to me so I could share it with the Maine Arts Ed community on the blog. Below is her post, I am sure you will read the excitement in her words and get a picture of the journey one school has had underway for two years.

A Celebration of Proficiency Based Learning

by Jen Etter, Music Educator, York Middle School


Jen conducting a middle level chorus class. She is not that tall, yes, she is standing on a chair.

I imagine it is not an every day occurrence to walk into a staff meeting and be whacked on the head by a gigantic balloon. It certainly isn’t at our school! This particular day, the multi-purpose room was decorated from top to bottom with streamers and colorful dots. There was loud music blaring and enough food to feed an army. So what would warrant this kind of celebration on a random Wednesday in the middle of October? The release of the report card of course!

The report card we released in mid-October is far from perfect, however to say it represents an enormous amount of hard work and commitment would probably be the understatement of the century! In the past year, York Middle School has transitioned to completely proficiency based instruction and reporting. This change required a complete overhaul in the way we do things around here.


Jen presenting to “critical friends”, summer 2013

For us the process began about two years ago. Our district had almost a complete change over of administration and our new focus became teaching and learning. I always feel odd saying that because really, shouldn’t the focus always be on teaching and learning? Well yes, it should be but I think everyone knows that more often than not, other things seem to get in the way. For many, including myself, this was a major transition in how lesson planning was approached. Until this point in my teaching career, when I planned a lesson, I usually thought about it in terms of two things: what do I want to teach the kids? and how much time do I have? Now, two years later it seems crazy to even think about that. In hindsight it seems so unprofessional! Personally, the shift of focus to teaching and learning has forced me to change my focus in lesson planning. What do I want every student in my room to learn? and how do I know they’ve learned it? For me, this change in mind set has made all the difference.

I don’t mean to paint a picture of perfection at my school because it is anything but that. For all staff, the transition to standards based reporting and proficiency based learning has been a major undertaking. It has raised major questions about the direction that education is heading both in our state and nationally and in many ways has divided our staff because of different philosophies. Despite this, the level of professional conversation that has been happening throughout our school is one of such depth and substance that it could motivate the most unambitious of teachers!


Jen with colleagues, Rob Westerberg, and Cynthia Keating at the Summit on Arts Education, July 2014

There are major changes happening in the world of education, there is no doubt about that. It is both an exciting and very scary time to be in the profession. I urge you, get caught up in the excitement and be part of the change. Be part of the conversation about what education should look like for our kids because I guarantee, no matter how you feel about proficiency based learning, diving into the discussion about what it should look like could be one of the most valuable things you will do as an educator.

Thank you Jen for sharing part of your journey and taking on a leadership role in your school. Jen can be reached at


Mega Video, MDIHS

December 10, 2014

All about the day!

Are you aware that we have a Maine Arts Education YouTube channel? If not, the name is Maine ARTSEducation and located at

I mentioned earlier on the blog and in the weekly list-serv email that Charlie Johnson, one of Mount Desert Island High School visual art teachers created a video of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s Mega-regional workshop at MDIHS.

It is now available for your viewing pleasure on the YouTube channel at Even among the snowflakes falling on the video you can see some of the seriousness and funny moments during the Mega MDIHS on November 25. (Who is that guy in the middle of the dance line?) THANK YOU CHARLIE for your PASSION for ARTS EDUCATION and WORK on the VIDEO!


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