Re: “Our View: Post-COVID, let’s build schools that work for everyone” (Nov. 7):

Innovation requires courage and a willingness to break out of doing what we have always done, because we always have. Schools and teachers need the support and permission of their community partners and parents to redesign the school experiences, to take advantage of what we now know about best practices for student learning and development. We need to accept ambiguity as part of the change process, we need to support and celebrate shedding the same old routines and practices that have governed schools and have hampered creativity. We need partners and parents to work with educators and demand that schools can and should look differently for our children than they did for our own 20th-century experiences.

Through the disruptions to the status quo over the past two years, Maine education is facing an incredible opportunity to harness the creativity and wisdom of our educators and school leaders. The Maine Department of Education’s Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures initiative is designed to support and explore new and innovative opportunities to influence future generations of learners through creative approaches to how we educate students. We are putting Maine educators on the forefront of cutting-edge innovation by supporting them with professional development, funding and a community of practice as they redesign educational practices and structures to foster meaningful and relevant learning experiences for students.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Stabilization Fund at $16.9 million, Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures has already provided over $2 million to support the design and implementation of outdoor education programs, community-based learning initiatives and online learning programs in schools across Maine.

Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures is also designing an online collaborative platform for educators to share ideas and work together to refine and develop new approaches to supporting a wide variety of learners. This online platform, called EnGiNE, is still under development but is slated to serve as a legacy to the creativity and shared experience of educators in responsively addressing the unique needs of their community’s learners. EnGiNE will serve as both a blueprint for the future and as a “ever-evolving road map” to document the progress and lessons learned from educator teams working together. Maine teachers, for generations to come, will be able to pinpoint each step of the iterative process and adapt to the specific needs of their unique students. In an increasingly disrupted and turbulent society, it is vital that we provide our educators with agile, effective and resilient learning experiences responsive to local priorities.

Recently the initiative provided the opportunity for teams of schools to partner to create remote plans as part of a RREV Responsive Pilot Accelerator program this fall. The accelerator course, in full swing now, is allowing participants to create a prototype that serves the needs of remote students while maintaining a personal connection with in-school opportunities to participate in extracurriculars or unified arts courses. Its unique online-hybrid features support the individualized needs of students while increasing capacity by using a shared approach to staffing and resources. Participants who successfully complete the eligibility requirements of the Responsive Pilot Accelerator will receive $100,000 in seed money for staffing, supplies and administrative expenses, in addition to the blueprint they create.

The Maine Department of Education is proud of Maine’s visionary educators and school leaders, and we are dedicated to continuing to support and help foster approaches to learning that celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and resilience of Maine educators. Please reach out to the schools in your community to offer your ideas, support and permission to evolve, and educators are encouraged to reach out to us at Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures (visit www.maine.gov/doe/rrev or contact Martin at [email protected]) to share your ideas or learn more about this unique opportunity to rethink how we can serve Maine students.


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