Friday, April 25, 2014
Standards-based education, an expansion of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative laptop program and school district consolidation top the list of reform initiatives promoted in recent years by the Maine Department of Education of former Commissioner Susan Gendron and Gov. John Baldacci.
What's the outlook for some of those initiatives when a new governor -- who prizes some form of further consolidation, charter schools, broadened school choice and an optional fifth year of high school -- takes office next month?
• Standards-based education isn't necessarily being ruled out. But it certainly won't rise to the top when it comes to policy initiatives to pursue.
The Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, the non-profit organization the state is relying on to spread the educational format to six pilot school districts won't see its state contract renewed when it expires in June. That doesn't mean the standards-based format dies an early death in Maine, just that the format won't be spread to new districts with the force and resources of the state behind it.
The six districts piloting the RISC model are in the early stages of implementing it; they're losing their state support for the RISC transition at a time when they're vulnerable to reverting to the traditional system, according to RISC co-founder Rick Shreiber.
By year three in the implementation process (the Maine districts are in years one and two), Schreiber said, RISC districts should be ready to serve as demonstration sites for the standards-based model.
The Maine districts could reach that stage, but their status as demonstration sites might not be enough of a spark for other districts that might have gone with the RISC approach with state support.
• The four-year state lease with Apple that secured MacBooks for more than half the state's high-school students and nearly all seventh- and eighth-grade students will come up for renewal while Gov.-elect Paul LePage is in office.
The Portland Press Herald last week reported that LePage is taking a look at the program, and wants to make sure it's used in classrooms effectively.
It'll be a few years before we have a clear idea about the fate of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative.
• In the same Press Herald article, LePage expressed an interest in continued school district consolidation.
He said he wouldn't pursue it, however, the same way the Baldacci administration has, though the LePage team has yet to put forth a proposal.
"I would like to see more consolidation and less superintendents," he told a group of Portland eighth graders.
That's exactly the idea that led Baldacci into school district consolidation, but local resistance largely impeded consolidation plans. How LePage would overcome that and find more consolidation success is unknown.
Just as the fate of Baldacci-era education reforms is thrown into question, two superintendents who have championed the reforms are stepping down.
Regional School Unit 1 in the Bath area consolidated even before consolidation became the law of land. Bill Shuttleworth, the superintendent who oversaw the merger and even stuck up for the consolidation law in TV ads last year when it was challenged at the ballot box, said this week he plans to step down at the close of the school year.
In Hallowell-based RSU 2, Superintendent Donald Siviski has been a vocal advocate for the RISC model (RSU 2 is a RISC pilot district), the one-to-one laptop initiative (Siviski's district had laptops at the high school before most others), and consolidation (RSU 2 consolidated early on in the process). He announced his retirement plans earlier this month.
That's two fewer school superintendents carrying the torch for those reforms.Tweet