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Informational Letter No. 2
Policy Code: IG
TO: Superintendents of Schools
FROM: J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner
DATE: July 7, 2000
RE: Results of the Learning Results implementation data collection that took place during regional planning retreats
“What does full implementation of the Learning Results look like?”
“What questions does the team have about statewide Learning Results implementation?”
“What challenges does the district face in implementing the Learning Results next year?”
Ninety-three (93) districts sent representatives or teams to one of the five Learning Results Implementation Planning Retreats the Learning Results Team led during April and May. On the second day of each retreat, teams provided two pieces of written information about Learning Results implementation. One was a list of the characteristics of full implementation, and the other was answers to two open-ended questions on the daily feedback sheet. This memo is the summary of the written responses from the 50 districts that submitted written information. The 50 districts (12 districts in Waterville, 12 in Bangor, 18 in Lewiston, and 8 in Presque Isle) currently receive either a Goals 2000 Learning Results Implementation Grant or a Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF) Grant or both. Four additional teams that do not currently receive either grant are not included in the first data set, since only one of the four responded to the prompt. The participants included nine superintendents; the rest of the participants (270) were curriculum and technology coordinators, classroom teachers and principals.
What does full implementation of the Learning Results look like?
Data Collection Method: Existing state-level policy documents were reviewed first, including the Learning Results statute, the Task Force on Learning Results’ vision for education, and the grant self-assessment. Prompt: If we meet again in ten years, and know that we have fully implemented the Learning Results, what will be happening? Participants listed individual responses to the prompt first, the district team discussed the individual responses and then created a common written list.
Analysis Method: All but a handful of the characteristics clustered into 22 areas. Only seven of these were mentioned ten or more times. Characteristics were included in a cluster if they described the same situation and were consistent. Though the retreats were held in four regions, only the Presque Isle session was truly regional in attendance. No regional distinctions in findings have been made.
Findings: 230 individual characteristics of full implementation were listed in response to the prompt, including 17 that describe full integration of technology with teaching and learning (seven of these 17 describe routine, integrated student and teacher use of computers in the classroom). The characteristics of full implementation in order of frequency are listed below:
1. Diverse instructional grouping and flexible district structures based on student learning needs. (27)
2. Extended student and teacher day and year. (18)
3. Common curriculum expectations across the district and across the state. (18)
4. Less emphasis on grading (letter grades) – replaced by reporting of student accomplishments. (16)
5. Students demonstrate achievements in a variety of ways. (16)
6. Individualized instruction and plans for each student. (12)
7. Parents, students, and community members know what the standards are. (10)
8. The community is a classroom. (9)
9. Teachers have time to work collaboratively to develop learning tools and assessments and to reflect on practice. (9)
10. Sufficient and equitable funding is provided. (8)
11. Teachers have high expectations for student learning and practice the belief that all students can learn. (7)
12. Students work independently and take ownership and initiative for their own learning. (7)
13. Local assessment systems provide information to change instruction and to make district-wide decisions. (6)
14. The community understands and supports district changes. (6)
15. The high school diploma is tied to student accomplishment. (6)
16. Teachers are coaches, guides, and facilitators. (5)
17. Teachers respond to student learning styles. (4)
18. Professional development is continuing and connected. (4)
19. Curriculum is integrated across content areas. (3)
20. The Guiding Principles guide assessment and behavior. (3)
21. Accountability was included on three lists, but not described.
22. Foreign language (2), visual and performing arts (2) were mentioned in different contexts.
The remaining characteristics were unique to the districts listing them, or too general to be matched.
Written Responses to the Two Questions
(Responses include the additional four unfunded districts; no differences were apparent.)
Question 1: What questions does the team have about statewide Learning Results implementation?
Findings: 13 questions were listed across the 54 districts, but not all districts responded. Six appeared more than once:
1. How will Learning Results implementation be funded? (13)
2. How will districts be held accountable for student achievement? (8)
3. What are the steps or indicators of Learning Results implementation? (7)
4. What does the state and local assessment system look like? (4)
5. Will the Learning Results be revised? (2)
6. Is earning a diploma tied to Learning Results achievement? (2)
The remaining questions are unique to each district, and unrelated to each other.
Question 2: What challenges does the district face in implementing the Learning Results next year?
Findings: 21 challenges were listed across the 54 districts; all districts responded. Ten were listed more than once:
1. Time to do the work. (17)
2. Teacher participation (12)
3. Funding (11)
4. Coordinating all the pieces (6)
5. The structure of the district (6)
6. Insufficient staff (4)
7. Developing assessment tools that give us the feedback we need (4)
8. Staying focussed on work that really changes practice (3)
9. Leadership (2)
The remaining challenges were unique to individual districts, and unrelated to each other.
Districts overwhelmingly described Learning Results implementation as the “common ends, uncommon means” definition of a standards-driven system that Maine identified in 1990 with the Common Core of Learning and affirmed with the Task Force on Learning Results and the Learning Results statute itself. The primary characteristics of this local system are flexible time and structures based on what students need in order to learn. Time is a key element in half of the top ten characteristics. It is notable that the standards themselves were rarely mentioned, but that local assessment is listed 47 times.
The questions districts asked about statewide Learning Results implementation are largely the same ones I remember from 1996. Funding is still a challenge at the local level and accountability remains nebulous. The questions districts listed, however, lead to an additional question: Are these questions being asked because districts wonder if the kind of flexible system they envision will be supported at the state level, or because they want state requirements about how to implement it, or some combination of the two?
The nine common challenges districts listed include two that specifically require outside support – developing assessment tools and funding. The other challenges are organizational within the district (although additional funding could help with most of them).
The Learning Results Team will continue to collect data about Learning Results implementation and report its findings to you throughout the coming year. The next report will compare the data in the Goals 2000 Learning Results Implementation and TLCF grants, and the separate per pupil professional development plans to the characteristics of full implementation listed at the retreats. If you have research questions you want the team to explore using this data, please e-mail Heidi McGinley (firstname.lastname@example.org) before August 1.