INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 70
POLICY CODE: LF
TO: Superintendents of Schools
FROM: Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner
DATE: February 2, 2007
RE: Report: (Michael Fullan and Nancy Watson)
A Look to the Future: Maine Education Reform
Thanks to all of you who participated at various meetings and with the actual site visits across the State that contributed to the findings and recommendations in Michael Fullan’s Report. I shared the final draft with Superintendents at their convocation earlier in January and released it to the public this week. I will be convening the Learning Results Steering Committee and the Policy Advisory Committee to review the findings as we continue the conversations for improving educational practices and policies.
Dr. Fullan made the following recommendations:
• With the engagement of SAUs, agree on the articulation of a brief, clear and compelling vision, which includes the moral purpose of public education. The vision would be a re-commitment to what is most important, not a new direction.
• Establish a few key priorities for the Department and SAUs across the State, with a focus on literacy and numeracy (this would be consistent with what many SAUs have already done). These priorities would guide education improvement work over the next few years. To support the priorities, the Department should minimize potential distracters; for instance, it might give less weight to some of the many of performance indicators, thus ensuring a sharper focus on the key priorities.
• Set concrete targets, particularly for literacy and numeracy, to provide common objectives and, over time, solid evidence of progress. Targets could be related to the Maine Educational Assessments, assuming sufficient alignment with the Maine Learning Results. We understand that some consideration is being given to adopting NWEA or (other adaptive formative assessment models) on a statewide basis, which would support tracking of progress at State and regional levels. Local targets at the school or SAU level would be developed collaboratively, not imposed unilaterally by the Department.
• Send a clear and consistent message to SAUs about what they are expected to do, specifying the SAU “deliverables” and clarifying for what SAUs are accountable. Such clarity would allow SAUs to determine how best to meet State requirements while retaining enough flexibility to address local needs and preferences. SAUs currently are unsure about a number of State requirements that are in flux or being questioned. Concrete suggestions offered by a number of our respondents included having a statewide school calendar to facilitate planning and participation in professional development.
• Focus explicitly on effective teaching and learning practices, and share these through professional learning communities (within schools) and lateral capacity building (between/among schools and SAUs). Enhancing teaching and learning practices will be fostered by greater clarity about State priorities and by facilitation of networks and other avenues for linking schools and SAUs.
• Strengthen partnerships between the Department and regional entities – partnerships that focus on building capacity in schools and SAUs. Use lateral capacity to build and strengthen collaborative cultures in the field (in and across schools and SAUs), perhaps making more use of existing organizational frameworks such as counties or superintendent regions, as well as educational partnerships or consortia operating in the State.
• Work with SAUs and Professional Development providers to develop a framework for ensuring that all SAUs have access to quality professional development to build skill in classroom assessment and instruction to meet expected outcomes. Such a framework would clarify how professional development should match the key State priorities, identifying skills and areas of focus to be addressed in year-by-year plans. State funding might go to providers agreeing to address current and future priority areas with some agreement about learning outcomes for educators participating in funded programs. Attention needs to be given to the particular learning needs of beginning teachers, those several years into teaching, and those in mid and late career.
• With SAUs and the relevant State and regional organizations, develop a framework for leadership development in Maine, including identifying key skills and knowledge bases for school and SAU leaders and developing paths for developing leaders. Such a framework would include attention to attracting and retaining high quality school leaders, as well as succession planning to ensure that future leadership needs are met. The Department should facilitate the establishment of forums for superintendents’ professional learning. Such forums would not be vehicles for input from the Department of Education, but rather for superintendents themselves to shape the ongoing learning and support to better address current and future challenges.
• Require short, focused SAU improvement plans, linked to State priorities, to help steer improvement aligned to these key priorities. The Report reinforce Reeves’ (2006) recent finding that “the size and prettiness of the planning document is inversely related to the amount and quality of action, and in turn to improvements in student learning.” Effective change has a bias for action – learning by reflective doing.
This Report will help inform the next steps the Department will be taking to continue the work described in Chapter 127: Instructional Program, Assessment and Diploma Requirements. As we convene the committees we will be sending out updates and guidance.
Michael Fullan’s Report is available for your review at www.maine.gov/education/reform.pdf