Posts Tagged ‘student centered’


Education Reimagined

September 28, 2019


Education Reimagined is all about transforming education. They’ve been carefully proceeding with their commitment that “learner-centered education be available to every child, regardless of background or circumstance.” Twenty eight educators came together to create Education Reimagined with diverse backgrounds who are committed to future of education.


SIMPLY PUT, the current system was designed in a different era and structured for a different society. Our economy, society, and polity are increasingly at risk from an educational system that does not consistently prepare all children to succeed as adults and is least effective for the children facing the greatest social and economic challenges. Conversely, the Internet revolution has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for new approaches to learning. Our growing recognition of the importance of skills and dispositions is also sparking a shift toward expe- riential learning. In short, we see both an imperative for transformation and many promising avenues for re-envisioning the learning experience.

Recently Sweetland School in Hope was featured in online news for Education Reimagined. Sweetland School is a student-centered school inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach and by educators and artists such as John Dewey, Elliot Eisner, Lily Yeh, Paulo Freire, Howard Gardner, Alfie Kohn, Sir Ken Robinson. Sweetland School aims to remain open and flexible to change and the needs of the current times and community. Lindsay Pinchbeck is the founder and director and also teaches at Sweetland School. She has served on the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative leadership team.

Read about Sweetland on the Education Reimagined website.

Sweetland School



Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Jen Etter

May 13, 2014

York Middle School music educator

This is the seventh blog post for 2014 and the third phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative of this series sharing arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. I had the pleasure of visiting Jen’s classroom recently, what a treat! It was a wonderful day.

Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 7.29.37 PMJen teaches grades 5-8 music. She directs the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade choruses and 7th and 8th grade general music.  She also assists with beginner band lessons. Jen has been teaching for 7 years in the York Schools.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

My favorite thing about being a music educator is watching students surprise themselves with what they are capable of after working hard to achieve a goal.  This is especially excited when it happens with a student who struggles to find success in other areas.  For me it reaffirms why music education is such an important part of a public school curriculum.

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

1.) Meaningful objectives and assessments tied to those objectives

2.) A passionate teacher who always keeps what is best for students at the forefront

3.) Having the support of the school and community around you including, fellow teachers, administration and parents

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

Assessment drives my classroom. So much so that I wonder how I could have possibly run my classroom without meaningful assessments as I did a few years back. Assessment is at the cornerstone of what I do as a teacher and I do it constantly. As I sit here answering this question I am smiling. I am smiling because I enjoy assessment so much that often my colleagues tease me about constantly planning my next assessment strategy. I’m sure at first this probably sounds as if I spend a whole lot of time testing my students which sounds really dull, however in my classroom, it is much more informal than that.

When I first started assessing students in my classroom, I realized very quickly that I knew my students better after assessing them. The more I assessed, the more I learned about their strengths and weaknesses and the more I knew about that, the better job I did at tailoring my instruction for all the learners in my classroom. I used to have a pretty good idea about the strengths and weaknesses of my students who loved to sing, because they would “put themselves out there” but there were many that I knew very little about.

My assessments are usually just quick check ins. They are done by asking questions on a 3 minute “exit form” that they submit to me electronically at the end of a class. Or I will randomly ask questions to students that have to do with the essential knowledge I would like them to take away for the day. This kind of questioning allows me the background knowledge I need to tailor my instruction to the needs of the students. Because of this I know constantly what my students are struggling with and what I need to do to help them- either on a large scale of individual level. I also assess students in more formal ways by having them submit recordings to me based on the objectives of our class. I feel that students don’t “slip through the cracks” in my classroom. Students are held accountable for mastery of  our music standards and when they are having trouble with that, I am in a much better position to know what I can do to help them succeed. This has also proved to be a huge factor in student motivation. My students no longer can sit in the back row and go through the motions. They know that it is their responsibility to meet the standards and they will be help accountable for them.

What are the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

The conversations and the camaraderie!!! The doors that have been opened as a result of being involved in the initiative are unbelievable. I now feel that I have so many contacts and so much support from teachers around the state that I would not have had otherwise. I feel inspired and challenged by these peers every day and it pushes me to try to get better at what I do!

What are you most proud of in your career?

I think I am most proud of the changes I have made in my classroom to make it more student-centered and standards- based. I believe that no one slips through the cracks in my room and I hold every student accountable for their own work. The returns I have seen on this have been amazing. Students rise to the occasion almost every time and seeing the pride that they have in themselves for the work they have done is just amazing.

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

Honestly, lately the Common Core. We are fighting an uphill battle against the “CORE” subjects and because of it we are continually losing time and funding.

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

As a district we have worked hard to create graduation requirements for both visual arts and music separately from each other. This change has driven more concrete requirements at the lower levels resulting in programs that are tied to a very academic curriculum but also have enrollment numbers that are through the roof.

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

Approach your classroom with the whole picture in mind. What is best for all students, all staff and the whole school. If you approach situations (especially with administration and other teachers) with the whole school in mind you will be more credible. This in turn will give you more solid footing when it comes to advocating for your own program.

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

Wow! That’s a lot of money! Steel drums for the General Music program, (working on that one even without the $500,000) SmartMusic for all the music students and also save a whole bunch for travel for the ensembles. Students gain so much from being able to travel and perform but also through listening to live performances, I wish we had both more time and more funding for that type of thing.



Standards-Based Education

August 22, 2013

Yes, again!

For years we’ve been talking about Standards-Based Education and now due to LD1422 the conversation is taking a giant leap forward. But what does standards-based mean? And, how about proficiency-based, student-centered learning and, standards-referenced? In April of 2012 I wrote a post on this topic but recently the question came up again asking for clarity so this post is provided for that reason.

I feel like educators are continuously trying to get a better understanding of these terms and of course, the bottom line is how does this impact teaching and learning? I remember during many years of my 30 years of teaching sifting through articles, research, and communicating about what I was reading with colleagues to try and make sense of education topics. That hasn’t changed for me working at the Maine Department of Education. The only difference is that much more information “comes across my desk”.

Yesterday I was honored to be part of the interviews for the finalist for the 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year. The process for selection is almost a year long so the three finalists were thrilled to be there and the conversation about teaching and learning was wonderful. I was reminded of the passion teachers have for the important work they do. The next teacher of the year will be announced at a surprise assembly at the teachers school in September. Congratulations to all three finalists! They are grade 4 teacher Mary Graziano from Hartland Consolidated School, grades 6 and 7 ELA teacher Karen MacDonald, from King MIddle School, and kindergarten teacher Suzen Polk-Hoffses from Milbridge Elementary School.

There was a question about standards-based education and I liked the answer the teacher gave which included “It’s not about the grade, it’s about the learning.” Earlier this year I listened to Cole Castorina, a student at York High School say: ” I know that I know it and I have confidence that I understand the concept. I didn’t just learn it for the assessment.” Cole and 2 other students were interviewed for the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s video series. You can access the York High School video with music teachers Rob Westerberg and Dan Sovetsky and principal Bob Stevens at this link. It is one thing to look at the chart below and another to hear students, teachers, and administrators articulate what it’s all about!

If you are trying to understand the difference between standards-based and standards-referenced researcher Robert Marzano has a diagram that provides clarity that you might find helpful.

Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 8.03.27 AM


Standards-Based Arts Classrooms Videos

July 23, 2013

Music and Art classrooms featured

You asked for it and now you’ve got it… during this past school year the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) created 4 videos in response to “What do visual and performing arts classrooms look like in a standards-based environment?” That question came up over and over during the first phase of MAAI so we decided to incorporate the search as part of phase 2. The MAAI has continuously listened to the needs of the field and this is one of those “asks” that we responded to.

Debi Lynne Baker taught visual art for many years and most recently K-12 in Greenville. She used technology in her teaching including movie making with her students. She was the perfect person to create the first 4 videos. With hours of footage taken at each school, Debi was able to edit and come up with 4 unique videos under 20 minutes that each tell a story. What you will learn is that there is NO ONE answer to the question and you will also find that the videos provide so much more than just answers to the question!

As we consider creating more videos as part of phase 3 we’d love to hear your feedback on the videos. Please post your comment on the blog or email me at Thanks!

See for yourself the following MAAI videos at the Maine ARTSEducation YouTube channel located at

  • Part I: York High School Music Program with Rob Westerberg, students and colleagues
  • Part II: Hancock Grammar School Art Program with Jane Snider, students and colleagues
  • Part III: Mount Desert Island High School Art Program with Charlie Johnson, students and colleagues
  • Part IV: Biddeford Intermediate School Music Program with Andrea Wollstadt, students and colleagues

You will find other arts education videos on the Maine ARTSEducation channel created by MAAI participants.


Update: Arts Assessment Courses Available

February 14, 2012

Jackie McTigue, Glenburn and Sue Beaulier, Ashland look at student exemplars

Bangor and Augusta

In January, a group of visual art educators met with faculty instructor, Catherine Ring, to begin a course in Refining Arts Assessment in the Visual Art Classroom in Bangor.  This was a great opportunity to bring together art educators who really do not have a lot of time to collaborate with each other. Looking at student art work, sharing how to assess student work according to standards, and participating in some very lively discussions were the name of the game. Many wonderful resources and ideas were shared. Participants are looking forward to more rich dialogue, and exciting discoveries of things they can do to improve student learning in Visual Art classrooms around Maine!

Katy Helman, Deer Isle-Stoningon and other art teachers in an animated discussion of student work

Does this partially meet, meet, or exceed proficiency?  How do we know our students are learning concepts and skills?  Are we teaching through standards-based instruction?  How do we measure creativity?  How does an art teacher balance the need to teach art skills and techniques and still encourage student ownership and creativity?   These are just some of the questions teachers tackled in the recent class in Bangor.  If you missed that opportunity, another course at Falmouth High School is happening on March 9, 10 and May 4 and 5.  There are still some openings in that class, though they are filling up fast!  Be sure to save a spot by registering for the course: Refining Arts Education in the Visual Art Classroom K-12 at Falmouth High School.

To register for upcoming courses, contact Catherine Ring (207) 367-5807 or visit the New England Institute for Teacher Education at

Jake Sturtevant presents on Standards-Based Instruction in the Music Room

On February 10, faculty instructor, Jake Sturtevant, greeted music educators from Deer Isle, Millinocket, Waterville, and Nobleboro in the first session of the course, Refining Assessment in the Music Classroom, at the Arboretum in Augusta. Jake presented on standards-based teaching in the music room, shared many resources (including ways to use technology) and fielded questions from how to give grades in a standards-based classroom to when to use formative and summative assessments. Jake is a Teacher Leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative and has led seminars on music assessment at conferences and regional workshops around Maine.

Sue Barre, Waterville, Eileen York, Deer Isle, and Kris Vigue, Millinocket

These teacher-friendly courses are held in two weekend sessions and are offered for three graduate credits through the New England Institute’s partnership with Endicott College. If you are interested in bringing an arts assessment course to your area, please contact Catherine Ring, Executive Director, New England Institute for Teacher Education, PO Box 460, Stonington, Maine 04681 (207) 367-5807 or visit the website

Thank you to Catherine Ring, member of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative Leadership team, for contributing this blog post.

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