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TO:               Superintendents of Schools, School Principals, School Board Chairs, and Deans of Education

FROM:         J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner

DATE:          August 22, 2001

RE:                Selected Updates for the Opening of the 2001-2002 School Year


            The summer of ’01 has been a glorious one for Maine with our extraordinary natural and geography benefiting from a run of spectacular weather.  True to form, though, our calendar is in the midst of August and some of our students have already returned to classes.


            As you and your school districts prepare for the opening of the 2001-2002 school year, here are several issues affecting your work and that of the Department. 


Standards, Assessment, and Performance

            Throughout the nation educators, school committees, and the public are immersed in the implementation of education reform.  Most national observers point out that unlike past efforts to improve public education, the approach of the last decade that has focused on articulating what students need to know, what skills they need to acquire, and what methods to use to measure learning, has persevered and is maturing.  While this reform has spawned controversial methods, such as “high stakes” tests, sanctions, and school take-overs in some states – actions spurned here in Maine – the reform has also brought a needed focus to the challenging work surrounding teaching and learning.  And the reform is driven by a different belief – not shared by all, but with significant evidence from around the world – the notion that every student can achieve a high level of literacy.  Indeed, whether it is Maine’s Learning Results or Texas and North Carolina’s “full court press” to improve student performance, the nation is now focused on achievement and opportunities to learn for all, not some of the students.


            This is the context of public education today, and it will undoubtedly shape our work this school year and throughout the next several years.


Maine’s Learning Results: Implementing Local and State Assessment

            LD, 1760, the so-called Learning Results Omnibus Bill was enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Angus S. King, Jr.  It’s provisions are many – in some cases to make contemporary old, outdated statutory language; in other ways, it sets important dates for implementation and provides guidance for school districts and the state when performance is not evident in certain localities. 

            The text of the law now:

·        Articulates throughout statute the unifying purpose of K-12 education: student achievement of Maine’s Learning Results;

·        Changes the School Approval process to be more results-oriented, with one comprehensive education plan instead of 15 or so distinct plans;

·        Establishes the importance of training and development for all school personnel;

·        Provides more specificity around expectations and timelines for assessment of Learning Results;

·        Clarifies that Learning Results apply only to public schools and to private schools enrolling 60% or more students at public expense (not other private schools or home schooling); and

·        Pilots the process of school assistance/ accountability to safeguard the learning of children in each Maine public school.


            The Department, guided by the Policy Advisory Committee on assessment and other feedback from the field, has prepared an RFP and is moving post-haste with the development of models and standards for comprehensive local assessment.  The Legislature has provided $1.3 million in FY ’02 and again in FY ’03 for Learning results implementation.  Our intent, consistent with the promise of Maine’s Learning Results, is to develop and implement a ‘mix of measures’ to ascertain progress toward higher levels of student achievement at the student, school, and school district level, as well as the state as a whole.  Our approach stands in contrast to many states that see assessment as a top down function.  The belief in Maine is clear: all students can learn to high levels and what counts is that they acquire the knowledge and skills.  Some students may demonstrate that literacy through different types of measures; pencil and paper tests are but one of many methods to measure learning.



Update on Grants: PPPD, TLCF, Goals 2000

            This summer the Department, like your school system, has experienced turnover in key positions.  As a result, three grant programs have been reassigned: Per Pupil Professional Development (PPPD), Technology Leadership Challenge Funds (TLCF), and Goals 2000.  More detail will follow in a letter focused on these programs.  In the meanwhile, please direct questions to the following people:

            PPPD ($2 million per year in ongoing funds)      Tom Keller

            TLCF (1 more year of federal funding)  Greg Scott

            Goals 2000 (federal funding has ended) Valerie Seaberg


Maine Learning Technology Endowment – Computers for 7th and 8th Graders and Their Teachers

            Commencing with the 2002-2003 school year all Maine 7th and 8th graders and their teachers will have new tools for teaching and learning.  Intended to provide an extraordinary resource to every student and teacher in these grades, the devices hold the promise of accessing primary sources of information and knowledge to support research, learning, and instruction across content areas.  The key to the initiative is 1:1 access throughout the instructional day.  If approved by the local school committee and the administration, these devices will be portable allowing for student use outside of regular school hours and at home.


            Maine’s initiative is the first statewide effort of it’s kind in America and though entire nations are contemplating such a policy, we are pioneering the idea.  The scale is considerable – 33,000 students and 2,300 teachers.  7th graders will have their technology in 2002-2003 with 8th graders following in 2003-2004.


            At this writing we are preparing an RFP for the devices.  Needless to say virtually all of the big names in technology are interested – they view this initiative as having the potential to transform teaching and learning – at first by providing students and teachers with a repository of primary resources for teaching and learning, but ultimately to help learners become more independent, skilled problem-solvers able to construct and use new knowledge.


            A major focus of our efforts is a focus on comprehensive professional development where we have considerable resources to help our faculty with implementation.  Instructional practice and content – not technology – will set the context for teacher learning.  Bette Manchester, Principal of Mt. Ararat Middle School in SAD #75, is on leave to the Department to assist with the project, and Kim Quinn of our technology team will spend all of her time on this initiative.  Other staffing additions are in the works.


            Concurrently, the Governor and I, as well as other interested Mainers, are accepting the charge of the Legislature to raise outside funds to insure that our monies are of sufficient size to provide a perpetual endowment and funding-stream for this initiative. 


            I must report that the eyes of the nation are on Maine regarding this bold step to realize 1:1 access and when we speak of Maine students becoming technologically savvy and second to none, other educators and business leaders are listening.  Coupled with the Learning Results, the Maine Learning Technology Endowment could, over time, hold more promise for helping Maine achieve prosperity than anything else we have done in the past. 


Attached is a summary of this initiative that we are using with a variety of audiences.  You may wish to share it with your communities.


Highlights of the First Session, 120th Maine Legislature

            Below are some additional education highlights of action by the 120th Legislature:


·        5.7% increase ($37.8 million) in General Purpose Aid in FY ’02.  (L.D. 300)

·        GPA Cushion of $6.2 million in FY ’02 (L.D. 300)

·        2.3% increase ($16.4 million) in General Purpose Aid in FY ’03.  (L.D. 300)

·        Increase in the state’s contribution to retired teachers’ health insurance from 30% to 35% ($1,336,160) in FY ’03.  (L.D. 855)

·        6% increase ($248,388) in Adult Education subsidy in FY 02 – 6% increase ($263,292) in Adult Education subsidy in FY ‘03.

·        An additional $525,000 in both FY ’02 and FY ’03 for support and maintenance of the ATM Distance Learning Network with a report back to the Appropriations Committee and the Education Committee in January, 2002.  (L.D. 855)

·        $30 million for the Maine Learning Technology Endowment with enabling legislation for fiduciary management and program governance and the establishment of an Advisory Board to develop and implement an annual learning technology plan to deploy endowment proceeds.  (L.D. 300)

·        $25,000 in FY ’03 to the Maine Leadership Consortium to grant funds (not to exceed $2,300 per teacher) to certain teachers seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was included in the Part II Budget.  (L.D. 855)

·        An additional $84,000 in FY ’02 and $126,000 in FY ’03 to Jobs for Maine’s Graduates to fund a portion of the cost of serving 280 additional students at 4 new sites.  (L.D. 855)

·        An additional $142,500 in FY ’02 and $152,737 in FY ’03 for the Reading Recovery Program.  (L.D. 855)

·        Established the Legislative Youth Advisory Council and appropriated $47,860 in FY ’03 for its operation.  The members of the Children’s Cabinet are members of the Council, and the Council is charged to work cooperatively with the Department of Education on the integration of the Council experience into the Learning Results Standards in student service and career preparation.  (L.D. 855)

·        Sustained Governor’s veto to repeal criminal history record checks for certification, authorization, and approval of educational personnel.

·        Enacted L.D. 1607 authorizing a general fund bond issue in the amount of $15 million to capitalize the School Revolving Renovation Fund.

·        Enacted L.D. 291 requiring that Maine Studies include Maine Native American studies, establishing a Maine Native American History and Culture Commission to identify resource materials and professional development for Maine educators to implement this requirement.  Five of the 15 Commission members employees of local schools.

·        Enacted L.D. 1301 providing for increased flexibility in resolving cost sharing issues among the municipalities of an SAD or a CSD.

·        Established the Education Funding Reform Committee to develop a comprehensive package of tax reform to reduce the state’s reliance on property taxes for elementary and secondary schools with a report back to the second session of the 120th Maine Legislature by December 31, 2001. (Provisions of L.D. 970 incorporated into L.D. 855)

·        The Education Committee will meet monthly with the Department of Education and the Maine Education Research Institute to do a comprehensive study of school funding during the summer/fall of 2001.  The Education Committee will report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House by December 31, 2001.

·        Did not enact L.D. 1747 An Act Regarding School Funding Based on Essential Programs and Services but did fund the State Board of Education at $150,000 to complete the research and make the recommendations called for in the bill.  The bill was not taken off the Special Appropriation Table during the last hearing before adjournment of the Legislative session but the Legislative intent was clear, since both chambers voted overwhelmingly for the legislation.

·        The provisions of L.D. 1762 An Act to Address Maine’s School Facilities Needs regarding debt service ceilings, 2nd and 3rd priority provisions for loans from the Renovation Revolving Loan Fund were incorporated in L.D. 855 – The Part II Budget.

·        Enacted recommendations (L.D. 269) relating to education made by the Joint Study Committee to Study Bomb Threats in Maine Schools including the development by the Commissioner of Education state prototype guidelines, policies and protocols regarding prevention of and response to bomb threats; requirements for schools to report bomb threats to the Commissioner; annual reports to the Education Committee; and requirements for the development of local bomb threat policies and bomb threat information in student handbooks.

·        Enacted provisions of the School Finance Act establishing the cushion in FY 2001-02, a Tier 2 cushion for FY 2001-02 and the fiscal year 2001-02 per pupil guarantee target of $4,687.  (L.D. 300)

·        Enacted provisions (L.D. 758) requiring the Department to adopt Major Substantive Rules regarding training for unlicensed school personnel who administer medications.

·        Established (L.D. 945) the Task Force to Examine the Establishment and Implementation of State Standards for Indoor Air Quality in Maine Schools.  The Task Force is to report back to the Education Committee and the Legislative Council with any recommendations by November 15, 2001.

·        Approved Major Substantive Rules in the areas of Time Out Rooms, Therapeutic Restraints and Aversives in Public Schools (Resolve 9); Distribution of Funds to Child Development Services Regional Sites (Resolve 4); School Siting Approval (Resolve 47) and Targeted Need Certificates for educators (Resolve 48).

·        Established (L.D. 797) the Blue Ribbon Commission on Postsecondary Educational Attainment.  The Commission is to reports its recommendation to the Second Regular Session of the 120th Maine Legislature by November 15, 2001.

·        LD 1255 permits educators who are collecting retirement benefits under the Maine State Retirement System to return to work in a school system without penalty.  At this time the full implications of this law are not known.  We will provide further information on this as it becomes available.



Department of Education – Staff, Services, and Structure

            As you know so well the Department, like your school districts, is challenged by issues of capacity.  This education reform is big, expectations are high, and the public doesn’t merely request, but demands broader more immediate service.  To this end, our senior staff has been examining our alignment with the work to be accomplished, our communication practices, and the titles of teams and sub-teams in the Department of Education.  After careful critique and examination by all DOE employees and feedback from the field we will be announcing these changes early in the fall.


Onward to the 2001-2002 School Year

            To each of you I extend a hearty thank you for your service to our schools, our children, and all of our youth.  Much is expected of you and of us.  We can succeed by joining forces and working together to help every student and every school while keeping our focus on a better Maine and expanded opportunities for our young people.  The work is difficult, the commitment considerable, the true report card many years out as our students become productive citizens of Maine.  I’m optimistic, and I hope that you are.  I wish you, your fellow educators, and students a productive 2001-2002 school year!


Maine to Equip All Students With Portable Computers

Maine Leads K-12 Education Into Digital Era with Maine Learning Technology Endowment

State Legislature Gives Green Light to a Revolutionary Plan to Transform K-12 Education with Universal, One-on-One Access to Wireless, Portable Computers and the Internet for Every 7th to 12th Grade Student and Teacher

Maine’s Learning Technology Endowment creates a state learning technology plan to prepare students for a future economy that will rely heavily on technology and innovation, and to transform Maine into the premier state for utilizing technology in kindergarten to grade 12 education.  The long-range plan hinges on the simple notion that all teachers and students in grades 7 to 12 should have personal, one-to-one access to portable computing technology and the Internet.  Maine people have worked hard over the past year to turn this powerful idea into a visionary, workable, balanced approach.  With the leadership of Governor Angus S. King, Jr., the Maine Legislature has directed the Department of Education to implement the first phase of the plan reaching all 7th and 8th grade students in 2002 and 2003.

Our vision:  Maine students will be the most technologically literate in the world.

The Maine Learning Technology Endowment makes MAINE

FIRST to seize the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning in classrooms statewide;

FIRST with a plan to equip all students and teachers in grades 7 to 12 with personal learning technology statewide;

FIRST to provide sustainable funding for total cost of ownership of personal learning technology statewide;

FIRST to propose a perpetual endowment to support learning technology statewide;

FIRST to equip every middle school student and teacher statewide with personal access to learning technology;

FIRST to empower every middle school teacher in every school statewide with professional development and support to fully tap the potential of computers and the Internet;

FIRST to provide the option of home Internet access to every middle school student in every school statewide.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.”

--hockey great Wayne Gretzky, explaining his goal scoring success
Maine Learning Technology Endowment

How does it work?

PHASE 1 – Begins 2002

Every middle school in the state equipped with wireless infrastructure.

Every middle school in the state provided with broad bandwidth access to the Internet and to network server capacity.

Statewide network provides technical support and server capacity to carry data, applications, and Internet connections.

Every middle school student supplied with home Internet access.

Every middle school teacher provided with intensive professional development and ongoing curriculum integration support.

Every school library provided with access to primary research databases.

August 2002 – personal portable computer device provided to all 7th grade students and all 7th grade teachers in all schools in the entire State of Maine.

August 2003 – personal portable computer device provided to all 8th grade students and all 8th grade teachers in all schools in the entire State of Maine.

PHASE 2 -- Begins 2004

Program expands to cover all Maine high schools, students, and teachers with infrastructure, portable computers, Internet access, and professional development and integration support.  Partnership with private sector/foundation funding sources is necessary to proceed to Phase 2.

How is it funded?

Success depends on partnership.

The State of Maine has appropriated a $30 million fund for learning technology, enough to fund Phase 1 in all Maine middle schools for up to 5 years.

If private support equaling at least $15 million is raised by January 2003, the fund becomes a permanent endowment that will support contemporary technology for Maine middle and high schools, forever.