August 27, 2013

Maine schools putting their heads together to improve

State education experts are highlighting promising practices to use as models for other schools.

By SUSAN McMILLAN Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 1)

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Fifth-grade teacher Michael Louder works in a small group with students at Canaan Elementary School during a reading workshop Friday. The school was one of two in Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54 that Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen visited that day.

Staff photo by Rachel Ohm

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The learning targets board in Roberta Hart's first grade classroom will be filled in with students' names as they master those skills, is seen in a photo taken on Tuesday August 20, 2013 at Dresden Elementary School.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Dresden also has started putting more emphasis on skills that will serve students throughout their education and careers, such as time management, goal setting and communication.

Beyond those possible explanations, Williams said Dresden's size could have contributed to its high grade. With only 97 students last year in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, a small number of students can have a big impact.

RSU 2 staff members are continually parsing data from different sources and looking for ways that the district's 10 schools can learn from one another, Williams said.

"We have to see what happens next," she said. "We said to ourselves, 'Great work, we're proud of ourselves, we just have to keep at it.'"

Moscow Elementary received a C, with low proficiency rates in both math and reading, but the school earned 100 out of 100 possible points for growth shown by individual students in math.

Juliana Richard, principal of Bingham-based School Administrative District 13, said school leaders knew that math had been a problem. They were dissatisfied with an electronic program that they were using, so they switched to printed textbooks last year.

The school staff worked with a consultant from the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and a coach paid with federal money through the No Child Left Behind accountability process. Teachers were involved in every decision, Richard said.

"More than anything, we just put our heads together and collaborated," she said.

The teachers looked closely at data from student assessments at the start of last school year and worked intensively to fill gaps and refresh students' learning in the six weeks before the New England Common Assessment Program tests in October.

Like Williams, Richard said that size is a possible factor and could cause volatility in the letter grades from year to year.

As an example, she cited the district's high school, Upper Kennebec Valley Senior High School, which received an F because of low proficiency rates on the Maine High School Assessment. On this year's test, Richard said, the number of students scoring proficient doubled, though there was no radical difference in what the school was doing.

Richard said the students, staff and community were disheartened by the F for the high school, and she believes the next round of report cards will reflect more positively on the district's schools.

"Our faculty are strong individuals, and they're working very hard to support our students," she said. "We're looking forward and getting ready to shift into the next year here."


Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:


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