Posts Tagged ‘Commissioner Bowen’


Final Arts Assessment Webinar of MAAI Phase 1

June 25, 2012

Commissioner Bowen guest on Back to the Future Webinar

On May 23rd we had the final webinar for the series as part of Phase 1 of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI). Commissioner Bowen was the guest with facilitators Catherine Ring and Rob Westerberg. The webinar was called Back to the Future: Arts Teachers Lead the Way. Catherine and Rob put together a list of questions for the Commissioner which provide a great deal of information.

If you were one of the 40 participants thanks for joining the webinar. Throughout the discussion the Commissioner shared his perspective on arts education. The webinar, along with the interview the Commissioner did for the blog post on August 30, 2011, shows his commitment to arts education.

Below are three of the questions that the Commissioner was asked on the webinar:

  1. Mass customized learning is all about shifting the paradigm in education. The Arts Assessment Initiative has been all about proficiency and assessment of proficiency. How can we use the arts in shifting the new educational paradigm, and how can this shift help the new paradigm of Arts education?
  2. It has been our experience that we have encountered many misperceptions about arts education (comprehensive understanding of what it really is); it is unique in that we are the ones who teach the creative process and we reach all children. There is a difference between creativity as a life skill which you may encounter across disciplines and the creative process grades PK through 12 which is learned only in the arts classrooms. How does the nature of the arts therefore connect to 21st century skills which are the foundation of our future work, and how are they to be assessed?
  3. What is the difference between LD 1422 and what we have now as it relates specifically to the arts?

Thank you to Catherine and Rob for facilitating the 7 webinars that happened throughout the school year. All of them have been archived and can be accessed with meeting plans on the Department’s arts assessment page at


During the webinar we looked at a crosswalk showing the connections with the MAAI and the Department’s Strategic Education Evolving.

The webinar is archived along with the other 6 MAAI webinars that have taken place during the school year since September. You can listen to the recordings located at Also at this webpage you will find meeting plans for each of the 7 webinars that you can use individually or at teacher’s meeting.

Thank you to Catherine and Rob for their work on the webinars. They are an important component of the MAAI and will continue to be useful for arts teachers across the state.

Below is the crosswalk that you can download as a .pdf or word document on the Department’s arts assessment webpage.

Strategic Plan

Maine Arts Assessment Initiative

1: Effective, Learner-Centered Instruction
  • The heart of all Professional Development IS student-centered learning
  • Presently using MLR, will transition to national standards, expected in December 2012
  • Individual teachers creating assessment tools to meet needs of their classrooms/students/PK-12 local systems
2: Great Teachers and Leaders
  • Building on what we know, providing Professional Development opportunities for teachers to move – good to great
  • Teacher leader training in assessment, technology, and leadership
  • Going deeper and wider for teacher learning
  • Collaborative opportunities
  • Development and empowerment of teacher leaders
  • Community of practice: Maine Arts Education Leaders
3: Multiple Pathways for Learner Achievement
  • Training teachers to lead in determining what tools will be used at the local level
  • Variety of arts courses available in high schools
4: Comprehensive School and Community Supports
  • Encouraging collaborative work
  • Providing successful stories, examples
  • Beyond phase 2: ideas under discussion
5: Coordinated and Effective State Support
  • Identification of teacher leaders – 36 total, training in assessment, leadership, technology – developing workshops
  • Facilitating workshops regionally
  • Webinars – archived w/meeting plans
  • Graduate courses being offered
  • Arts ed list serv/Blog – ongoing communication
  • Repository of best practices (lessons, units, assessment tools)
  • Community of Practice



Celebration of Arts Education

June 15, 2012

A great day for the arts

First Lady Anne LePage Welcoming families to the Blaine House

At the Celebration of Arts Education the First Lady welcomed K-6 arts students from Bangor elementary and middle schools to the Blaine House and thanked the students for sharing their work at the Department of Education. Mr. James Banks, chair of the state board, congratulated the students for their accomplishments in the arts. Stephen Bowen, Commissioner of Education, introduced three kindergarten students who performed a song they had written with the guidance of their music teacher, Anne Chamberlain-Small. Students has worked on the song all year using garage band and it is on the Department’s YouTube channel.

At the completion of the singing the students received certificates and “I am a musician” button. Artists were announced and each of them were presented a “I am an artist” button and a certificate.

After enjoying cookies and punch in the dining room the families were welcomed at the Department of Education to view the artwork on display. The musicians sang their song a second time. Many families made a day of it visiting other places of interest in Augusta.

Student artwork are posted on the Bangor art exhibit page found on the right side of the front page of the blog. The exhibit remains unil the end of June. Earlier this month a post was made on the specifics of the art exhibit.

Season Make a Rainbow Score


Commissioner Bowen Guest on Arts Webinar

May 21, 2012

Last webinar of the series: Back to the Future: Arts Teachers Lead the Way – MAY 23rd

Join Rob Westerberg and Catherine Ring on Wednesday, May 23rd from 3:30-4:30 for their final webinar, “Back to the Future: Arts Teachers Lead the Way”.  They will be culminating this series of webinars on Arts Assessment, a component of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s Phase I, with an interview with Department of Education Commissioner Steve Bowen.

Since LD 1422 (which will impact Maine’s high school graduation requirements) is about to become law, and Maine has adopted a Strategic Plan “Evolving Education: Maine’s Plan for Putting Learners First” to improve teaching and learning across the state, Rob and Catherine will ask the Commissioner to talk about the key components of the Plan, and about the impact it will have on arts educators in particular. Argy Nestor will also be joining the discussion.

“We think you will find that many of the components of Maine’s Strategic Plan are already underway with arts educators across the State,” said Catherine. “In fact, the goals the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative has established dovetail beautifully with the State’s plan, and the Initiative’s goals are designed by arts educators themselves.”

Come find out what the Strategic Plan is all about, and you’ll be able to connect the dots to the many accomplishments in the past year by the teacher leaders in the the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.  This model is being looked at carefully, and replicated by other content area efforts. You will also learn what’s in store for Phase II of the Initiative, as plans have begun, in earnest.  Arts teachers are, indeed, leading the way.

To join the meeting:


Commissioner’s News Release

January 19, 2012

Commissioner unveils education plan

The ground is shifting underneath us. We are hearing about the importance of making changes to the way we “do education” to meet the needs of 21st century learners so all kids are successful. What does that mean for the arts classroom? If you are an arts teacher what components of how you teach meet the needs of your learners in your classroom, whether you teach elementary, middle or at the high school level? Are you taking part in the conversations in your school district? Are you meeting with your arts colleagues to converse about this topic? Please take the time to read the News Release below that will give you a broad overview of the plan from the Commissioner of Education, Steve Bowen.

“Education Evolving” lays out plan to engage students, give them more say in how they learn

AUGUSTA – Students will play a more active role in organizing their own learning and have more choice – such as internships, inter-disciplinary classes, independent study, and vocational education – in how they learn and achieve standards, according to a strategic plan for education unveiled by Maine ‘s education commissioner on Tuesday.

Stephen Bowen unveiled his much-anticipated plan, “Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan for Putting Learners First,” at a press event at the Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta. He shared the spotlight with five students from four schools who spoke about their own educational experiences in classrooms where they had a say in determining their own educational path.

“Governor LePage made it clear to me from the start that he wants an educational system that put kids first, a system where kids are at the center,” Bowen said. “That is the direction that we are proposing to go in.”

The plan lays out five core priority areas, each with four tenets or strategies for improving the educational experiences of Maine students.

The first three core priorities — Effective, Learner-Centered Instruction; Great Teachers and Leaders; and Multiple Pathways for Learner Achievement — outline the need for rigorous standards and instructional practices that customize learning for each student. By putting students in control of more aspects of their education, teachers would be freed up to focus on the individual needs of all students and work with them to build learning plans that engage them and are paced appropriately.

In this proficiency-based system, students can show they’ve met the standards in multiple ways. “If a student is learning and demonstrating understanding of an algebra concept in an automotive class at a Career and Technical Education center, why would we make the student go back to his or her regular high school and sit in an algebra class to learn the same thing?” Bowen said. “Let’s allow students more flexibility to learn in ways that engage them – a combination of classes, CTE, internships, and other experiences.” At younger levels, students might learn through a combination of experimentation, online learning, field trips, textbook exercises, and group projects.

Bowen challenged the notion that all students who enter kindergarten at the same time should go through 13 years of school learning the same material at the same pace as their classmates. “That just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

As part of the transition to a proficiency-based model of education, the plan addresses the need for improved assessment systems. Maine is a lead state in the SMARTER Balanced assessment consortium, which is developing assessments to measure higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills, not simply rote memorization, and to provide timely feedback that can inform classroom instruction.

More effective teacher evaluation systems developed in collaboration with teachers are central to the Great Teachers and Leaders section of the plan. These systems must provide clear standards to teachers, measure them fairly, and provide feedback for continuous growth and improvement. Teachers and administrators at a handful of Maine schools are already working on such systems.

In an era of limited resources, Bowen said he wants the Maine Department of Education to leverage its resources to support teachers and education leaders by facilitating professional development through an online Communities of Practice collaboration platform. The platform, which is already under development, will allow educators and Department staff to share best practices and materials, such as lesson plans and instructional tools.

The last two priority areas are:

Comprehensive School and Community Supports, including health and wellness and community partnerships, and access to internships, apprenticeships and other opportunities to learn in workplace settings, apply academic lessons and explore potential career fields; and
Coordinated and Effective State Support, which calls on the Department to better integrate student learning from early childhood education to post-high school learning, to review the way in which it provides financial and other support to schools, make better use of technology to streamline district reporting requirements, and to develop a new accountability system to replace the one required under the unfair and unrealistic federal No Child Left Behind Act.
In the plan, Bowen makes the case that change is needed to advance student achievement. While Maine exceeds national averages in test scores and graduation rates, test scores have remained essentially flat, and still nearly 20 percent of students who enter ninth grade will not graduate four years later. Moreover, initiatives in recent decades have not made things better. High-stakes testing and federal accountability have moved schools to focus on the tested subjects of English and math to the exclusion of others, and still not made a difference.

“What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked, despite the dedication and hard work of Maine’s educators,” Bowen said. “We haven’t moved the needle. The system is standing in the way of students, teachers, and leaders.”

Not surprisingly, students feel unengaged at school. Studies show they are bored and do not see the relevance of what they are learning to them or their futures. Teachers are discouraged and frustrated in an environment that focuses on the wrong measures of accountability. The structure of the current education system, established in the late 1800s, is no longer capable of meeting the needs of today’s students, Bowen said.

Some aspects of the plan would require legislation, but many would be implemented through collaboration with and support for willing school districts, many of which are already leading in areas such as developing proficiency-based systems and new teacher evaluation systems.

“In many ways we are taking our lead from the districts out there that are already doing this work,” Bowen said. “What we want to do is to help find those schools of excellence, the teachers that are making a huge difference, and share what they are doing with schools across the state. And we want to put an end to flipping from one initiative to another and help create some stability for districts that are looking to the state for steady support for programs that work.”

The commissioner asked five students to join him at the event to speak about their own learning experiences. They were:

Maggie Stokes, a fourth-grade student at Williams Elementary School in Oakland, part of RSU 18. Maggie recently completed a persuasive project encouraging others to recycle in order to protect the planet. She was joined by her teacher, Shelly Moody, the 2011 Maine Teacher of the Year who has been working with her principal and fellow teachers to create proficiency-based classrooms focused on student needs.
Gareth Robinson, an eighth grader at Auburn Middle School. Gareth has been actively using technology since elementary school both at school and personally for hobbies, like playing guitar. He recently completed a social studies project where he and a group of classmates used iMovie to make a newscast of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Mike Muir, the Multiple Pathways Leader for Auburn Schools, was also present. Muir works district-wide to implement large-scale school change efforts, such as the multiple pathways program at the high school and the early learning initiative involving iPads in the kindergarten, to help students engage in their learning.
Brooklyn Pinkham, a senior at Capital Area Technical Center and student at Cony High School in Augusta. Brooklyn hasn’t always fit the traditional definition of a good student. But when she arrived at CATC during her junior year, she started to excel after finding her passion in culinary arts. Now, she’s president of CATC’s Skills USA affiliate and has plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America to continue studying culinary arts. Center Director Scott Phair joined Brooklyn for the event.
Morgan Horn and Kaytie Scully of Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan (RSU 24). A junior, Morgan is pursuing a career in medicine and is on track to graduate in January of her senior year. Before she graduates, her personal learning plan includes an independent scientific literature class, job shadows, an internship and college classes. Kaytie had a rough start to her high school career but managed to turn things around. Through a program called Pathways, she crafted a personal learning plan that has included adult education classes and online classes. She recently enrolled in a Certified Nursing Assistant program through Adult Education and is receiving both high school credit and a professional certificate. Morgan and Kaytie were joined by Val Peacock, Sumner Pathways teacher/adviser, and Denny O’Brien, Pathways system consultant.
Bowen called his plan a first draft and a working document, saying he plans to do a round of regional visits to educators across the state to seek feedback on the plan. Bowen conducted a “listening tour” almost immediately after being named commissioner in March 2011, visiting schools and meeting with educators, students, parents and others throughout the state to gather information and ideas for the plan.

The public is invited to read the draft strategic plan and join an online discussion about the plan at


Commissioner Bowen Update

November 3, 2011

October 31st

Last week I attended the Curriculum Leaders conference in Freeport. During the second day Commissioner Bowen spoke. His remarks were included in his weekly update on October 31st. I am reprinting them below because he clearly outlines his vision for education. If you are not receiving the Commissioner’s weekly updates you may sign up at

I want to begin with a thank you to all of you for your hard work and dedication and for everything you do to make our schools better.

Everywhere I’ve gone since taking this job – all the schools I’ve visited – I’ve seen tremendous dedication from our educators and school leaders, including the many board members I’ve met.

You all, first and foremost, want to do the right thing for kids – and for that I thank you.

I don’t need to tell you that this is an enormously challenging time for school leaders.

We confront a handful of major challenges that, while they will test us, will also, I think, ultimately lead us to do transformative things in our schools. Specifically, I want to talk about three major challenges that we confront.

Challenge 1: Our legacy system isn’t getting the job done

The first is that when you measure the success of our schools by the traditional means by which we measure it – test scores, graduation rates, and so forth – we don’t seem to be moving the needle.  Test scores are essentially flat, graduation rates may be up a little, but have gained slowly – too slowly for many folks who think that we should be improving at a faster pace.

Too many of our kids are dropping out, too many who do complete high school are not ready with the skills they need to then move on to college and careers, and, in fact, too many don’t go on to some kind of post-secondary education, and too many who do don’t complete any kind of post-secondary degree.

As if all this wasn’t enough, if you read Tony Wagner, who was here a few months ago, and authors like him, he argues that the kids we are graduating are not ready for life and work in the 21st century in a much broader sense. The employers he talks to say kids coming out of school today can’t think, don’t know how solve problems. They need step-by-step directions to do anything. They can’t communicate effectively. They don’t think creatively. They are risk-averse, because they come out of an educational system where making mistakes is a bad thing.  We give you lower grades for making mistakes.

So in short, the system we have isn’t getting the job done.

Challenge 2: Recent initiatives aren’t helping

The second challenge is that there is growing evidence that the steps that we have undertaken to address problem number one have, in some ways, made things worse. In an attempt to solve problem number one, we instituted high-stakes testing, for instance. We grade your schools based on how they do on standardized tests in basically two content areas, math and English language arts, with the occasional science test thrown in as well.

What schools have done in response is focus their efforts in those areas, and in a time of budget constraints, schools and districts have trimmed other programs to focus more effort and more resources on these few content areas. In community after community that I visited, parents and kids complain about cuts to art programs and industrial arts programs, music programs and foreign languages.

I was at Capital Area Technical Center earlier this week to celebrate the opening of a credit union branch – a credit union, right in the school. Kids will work there, they’ll learn job skills, they’ll learn personal finance. They’ll learn with real money! Sounds great, right?  The problem is that the CATC has room to take 100 more student than they have, but the sending high schools won’t send them.  The center director says the high schools tell him it is because of budget cuts that this terrific educational resource, right in the middle of Augusta, is underutilized. A hundred open slots over there.

In part because of decisions like this – taken because schools are responding to the incentives, responding to the pressure of the No Child Left Behind Act – we have a massive student engagement issue. A recent Indiana University study found that 67 percent of students report being bored in school every day.

And then there is the impact of all this on your educators.  I heard repeatedly this spring that the heightened focus on testing and accountability is driving people out of the profession. We have a massive loss rate. Of 100 prospective teachers who enter education schools nationally, only 70 become certified. Of those who actually enter the profession, a third leave in three years and 50 percent leave in the first five years. So to get 35 teachers – at whatever level of effectiveness – at the five year mark, then you need 100 coming in the door.  We can’t keep this up.

So we have a system that isn’t getting the job done and the actions we’ve taken so far, under No Child Left Behind, don’t seem to be working and may be making it worse. So what do we do?

We need to make some big changes. And this is not, in my mind, a case of nibbling around the edges. This isn’t a situation where we need to adopt a new math curriculum or buy a bunch of interactive whiteboards or something.

Challenge 3: Our legacy system was designed for a different century

The third challenge we have is that to build a system to meet the needs of all kids, we have to go to the core design elements of the system we have – to age-based grade levels, to Carnegie units and seat time, to bell schedules – to the basic architecture of the industrial-era factory model of schooling that we all inherited.

With all we’ve learned about child development, we still put kids together in cohorts by physical age when they are five years old and keep them in that cohort for the next dozen years?

We have kids come to school when we want them to – at 7 in the morning, to learn algebra, then go down the hall and do earth science, and then come into my old classroom and learn about the Ancient Greeks and then go next door to language arts and read “To Kill a Mockingbird?” None of it is connected to the rest of it.  Equal time allotments for each no matter how much time students need to learn it. What are we doing?

I’ve learned, by the way, that the basic architecture of this system was established, in part, more than 100 years ago by this group known as the Committee of Ten. This was a high-profile committee of educators, chaired by the president of Harvard, and they released a report in 1892 which outlined the basic design of public schools today.

Any of this sound familiar?

  • 8 years of elementary school followed by four years of high school.
  • In math, arithmetic was to be taught from ages 6 to 13, pre-algebra was to be addressed at about 7th grade, algebra itself was to begin at age 14, followed by geometry.
  • The three-year secondary science program was to begin with biology and earth science, then to chemistry, then to physics.

The committee’s report also declared that “every subject which is taught at all …should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to every pupil.” It likewise determined that each subject should be granted the same “equal time allotment” regardless of whether a student needed more or less time to learn it. This was done, in part, the committee wrote, to preserve the “dignity” of each academic subject. It was the subject matter to which teachers were to do homage, not the needs of students.

But then, the Committee of Ten, was trying to build system of schools to meet a very different set of needs. It was thought at their time that only an “insignificant percentage” of high school graduates would go on to college, so the ideal school system should “be made for those children whose education is not to be pursued beyond the secondary school.”

Envisioning a new model of schooling for a new age

What we confront, therefore, almost 120 years later, as we try to use this same basic system to bring all children to a high level of achievement on rigorous standards, is fundamentally a design problem. The system we have was designed for a different time, with different needs.

So the great challenge before us is not to simply tweak the system we have, but to make something better – to build a new model for schooling for a new age.

How do we get there?

This summer we spent some time at the office thinking about how we can focus the work of the Department on a handful of things that will get us where we need to go. We came to organize our thinking around five core priorities, that, if we can keep our focus on them, will help us to help you move our schools into a new era.

The first of these is Effective Instructional Practices.

Priority 1: Effective instructional practices

The core of this entire enterprise is what happens between student and teacher that results in learning. All of us who have taught have seen that flash of understanding from a student. We construct this entire universe of public education for that moment when a student learns. That is the reason for the whole thing.

So what happens in the classroom is the key to the whole thing. Do we have rigorous standards, do we have curriculum aligned to those standards, do we have instructional practices that put the student at the center — that gives the student voice and choice — do we have modern, 21st century assessment tools, and robust data systems that help us tailor instruction to the needs of every child in real time?

Getting those pieces right — those things that happen in the classroom — is key.

None of these pieces will work, though, if we don’t have great teachers and leaders, which is the second priority.

Priority 2: Great teachers and leaders

Do we have common standards for teacher and leader effectiveness that speak to what our teachers and school leaders should know and be able to do?  Are our initial preparation and professional development programs aligned with these standards?  Do we have evaluation systems in place that provide teachers and leaders with constructive feedback, and that are also used to design and implement professional development offerings? Do we do enough to support teachers and leaders in their role as learners – supporting the work they do together to make their schools better.

One of the initiatives we’re working on, for instance, is developing an online community of practice where teachers, school leaders, curriculum coordinators and others can share best practices – share lesson plans, rubrics, curriculum materials and professional development opportunities.

The research is clear that great teachers and leaders are the key to high-performing educational systems. This has to be a top priority for us.

These great teacher and leaders though, can’t do their jobs if they remain locked into the factory-era structure of modern schools. That is why the third core priority is building multiple pathways for student achievement.

Priority 3: Multiple pathways for student achievement

At long last, can we move away from the assembly-line, age-based grade level system we’ve endured for generations, and move to a system where students move upon demonstration of mastery? We can. It is happening in schools right here in Maine, right now.

An entire cohort of schools has emerged that is moving a proficiency-based model forward. We will be doing some research into what this cohort of districts is doing, so we can share their work with the rest of the state.

Something that high performing systems do is establish gateways at certain critical points in a student’s academic career, such as the transition from elementary school to middle school. As we build a proficiency-based system, we need to ensure that students are fully prepared to move on ahead in their learning.

We also need more learning options for students. If we are building a system that puts the needs of students first, can we still cling to a model of schooling where the school the student attends is determined by the student’s street address? Can we continue to put administratively convenient limits in place that prevent students from attending Career and Technical Centers, or even, for older students, make use of the state’s Adult Ed system? Don’t we need to maximize the use of every educational resource at our disposal — no matter which side of the town line those resources fall on — if we’re going to meet the needs of all kids?

We also live in an age of anytime, anywhere learning, and if we are going to remain relevant in the lives of this generation of school children, we have to embrace new technologies such as digital learning. Schools can’t be the one place where students are not allowed access to digital learning opportunities.

Priority 4: A network of school and community supports

Around this system of schooling, we need to build a network of school and community supports – our fourth core priority.  We need to ensure that we have effective and efficient services for students with special needs, especially as we see the percent of students with multiple and severe learning issues on the rise. We need to better coordinate access to health and wellness programs, as again, we see a growing number of health issues affecting student learning.

In the world outside our schools, we need to engage families and communities as never before. In a student-centered, proficiency-based model, learning happens all the time. Students will demonstrate mastery of learning outcomes in projects done at home or in the community. In schools across Maine already, students demonstrate learning through community service projects and capstone projects that are interdisciplinary and that connect students to the world outside the school walls.

Employers, too, need to be engaged.  Students need exposure to the world of work, and need to see how what they know and are able to do can be applied in the workplace. Moving our state forward in the STEM fields, for instance, will require an unprecedented partnership with our STEM employers, as we look for ways to ensure that our graduates are ready for the careers of the 21st century.

The last core priority area we have been working on relates to how we pull all these pieces together to create a seamless, modern educational system.

Priority 5: A seamless, modern educational system

Can we work with our education partners from Pre-K to higher ed in order to create a seamless system of education that provides our students with access to learning opportunities they need at every level? Can we align all of our coursework to ensure that students can move directly from high school to postsecondary educational opportunities without the need for remedial courses?

With regard to funding, can we ensure that we have adequate and equitable financial resources behind each student and school?

Can we integrate technology in a comprehensive way, from the back office to the classroom and beyond, in order to prepare students for the technological age in which they will live and work?

Can we build an accountability system that clearly and honestly reports how our schools are doing, that provides policymakers with real-time data that they can use to make our schools better, and that drives professional development and support opportunities to help our schools improve?

We don’t need more reforms, we need transformation

So those are the core areas that we have been focused on, starting as close to the learner as we can, in the classroom, with the teacher, and working out from there.  That approach, we think, keeps us focused on the most important thing, which is the learner and his or her learning needs.

Now, I asked a lot of “can we” questions in this presentation. A lot of them.

But this isn’t really a question of “can we.” We have to do these things.

We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the No Child Left Behind Act. The Obama administration has put forward a waiver opportunity, which we intend to pursue, and Congress is arguing about reauthorizing the controversial law as we speak.

Nobody likes NCLB, but NCLB, I think, was more useful to us than we think.

The premise of NCLB was that if we had high standards and if we held schools accountable for student achievement, they would get better. But the law also presumed something else – that schools and school teachers knew what to do to get better, they just weren’t doing it.  So what we would do under the law is test the kids, put the results in the newspaper and shame the schools into doing what they needed to do to improve.

What we found though, is that while schools and districts did see some improvement by focusing on standards and by looking carefully at their instructional practices, we’re not even close to getting all students to master the learning standards. NAEP scores, for instance, have barely budged, despite a decade of serious effort on the part of most people in the education business.

What we have come to find, I think, is that while standards and assessment are important, what we can do to actually improve student outcomes within the system as it is presently designed is limited. We’ll never reach all kids if we don’t replace age-based grade levels with something better.  We’ve tinkered around the edges for too long, we’ve driven teachers, administrators, parents and kids all crazy trying to test our way to a better educational system.

We don’t need reform, we need transformation in our schools. It is happening already, there is great work being done, we’re looking to help in any way we can, and I look forward to working with all of you to just that.


Commissioner’s Listening Tour of Washington County

May 22, 2011

Education commissioner’s listening tour events in Washington County

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen will visit Washington County on Tuesday, May 24 and Wednesday, May 25 as part of his statewide listening tour.

He’ll start May 24 with a public forum at Machias Memorial High School from 6 to 8 p.m.

The next day, he’ll meet with Washington County superintendents in the morning before visiting Rose Gaffney Elementary School in Machias. The 344-student school serves students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight.

In the afternoon, Bowen will visit Beatrice Rafferty School, which serves 100 students in kindergarten through grade eight on Pleasant Point Reservation. The school is one of three in Maine that receives part of its funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Bowen will end his Washington County trip with a public forum from 6 to 8 p.m. at Downeast Heritage Museum in Calais.

The following events will be open to media coverage:

6-8 p.m., Tuesday, May 24
Machias Memorial High School, 1 Bulldog Lane.
Public forum

10:45 a.m., Wednesday, May 25
Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School, 15 Rose Gaffney Rd., Machias
School visit
Principal: Mitchell Look
Superintendent: Scott Porter

1 p.m., Wednesday, May 25
Beatrice Rafferty School, 22 Bayview Dr., Pleasant Point Reservation
Principal: Michael Chadwick
Superintendent: Ron Jenkins

6-8 p.m., Wednesday, May 25
Downeast Heritage Museum, 39 Union St., Calais
Public forum

For more information and updates on the Listening Tour, go to:

All Maine Department of Education news releases can be found online at:


Commissioner Bowen Listening Tour Continues

May 14, 2011

Ed Commissioner’s listening tour events in the Midcoast region

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen will visit the Midcoast region on Tuesday, May 17 as part of his statewide listening tour.

Bowen will start with a visit to Searsport District High School to learn about the school’s implementation of a standards-based model and a system of interventions that kicks in when students don’t meet standards. The Commissioner will tour the school and meet with students, teachers and administrators.

Bowen will end the day with a public forum at Camden-Rockport Middle School from 6 to 8 p.m.

Both events will be open to media coverage:
12:30-3 p.m.
Searsport District High School, 24 Mortland Rd., Searsport
School visit
Principal: Brian Campbell
Superintendent: Bruce Mailloux

6-8 p.m.
Camden-Rockport Middle School cafeteria, 34 Knowlton St., Camden
Public forum

For more information and updates on the Listening Tour, go to:


Commissioner of Ed visiting Kennebec Valley

May 9, 2011

Listening tour continues

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen will visit schools in the Kennebec Valley on Tuesday, May 10 as part of his statewide listening tour.

He’ll start with a morning meeting with superintendents in Oakland before he visits Oakland’s Williams Elementary School. At Williams, he’ll spend time in the classroom of Shelly Moody, Maine’s 2011 Teacher of the Year.

Bowen will then visit Readfield Elementary School, where he’ll learn about the school’s Response to Intervention program.

Bowen will end the day with an evening forum at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland to hear from parents, teachers and others interested in sharing ideas about improving education and the work of the Department of Education.

The following events will be open to media coverage:
10:15 a.m.
Williams Elementary School, 55 Pleasant St., Oakland
School visit
Principal: Kathy Harris-Smedberg
Superintendent: Gary Smith
12:30 p.m.
Readfield Elementary School, 84 South Rd.
School Visit
Principal: Cheryl Hasenfus
Superintendent: Rich Abramson
6-8 p.m.
Messalonskee Middle School cafeteria
Public forum

For more information and updates on the Listening Tour, go to:

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