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A Shift in State Policy
On the heels of the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the State of Maine recently decided to make some other significant shifts in how it intends to prepare students for college and careers. Maine recently passed a new statute requiring all Maine school districts, starting with the Class of 2018 (the current eighth graders), to award diplomas to students based on the mastery of the standards they study in their classes. Historically, students have earned their diplomas by collecting a required number of credits and passing grades. In the past, all of their assignments would get averaged together to generate the final grade for a class. A seventy percent or above was passing. Now, students will need to show they are proficient in each standard within a class, not just proficient overall. This shift in policy promotes a more rigorous understanding of what it means to learn and what knowledge is required to graduate, as students are held accountable on a more detailed level.
Reasons for the Policy Change
This statewide change in mindset around graduation requirements evolved from feedback shared by college administrators and employers about the general lack of preparedness of Maine students and students nationwide. State education leaders argue that a change to proficiency-based education will better prepare students for post-high school experiences as students will be held more accountable for mastering all of the material covered in their classes, not just the average of the standards which would allow them to pass and graduate while still retaining gaps in their learning.
The New Requirements
The statutory guidelines for proficiency-based education that apply to next year’s ninth graders provide guidance on the requirements while still allowing for local decision making in some areas. The key components are both academic and include skills related to work habits.
Pre-K - Four Year Old Program- Registrations are now being accepted for the 2014-2015 school year. Children must be four years of age on or before October 15, 2014 and may not turn five before September 1, 2014. Space is limited.
Kindergarten - Now is the time to register children for the 2014-2015 school year. Kindergarten registration takes place through your local neighborhood school. Any children who will be five years old on or before October 15, 2014 are eligible to register. Children entering Kindergarten will need to have the registration packet completed and returned to the appropriate school along with an original birth certificate and immunization record of the child before kindergarten screening can be scheduled.
For more information regarding either Pre-K or Kindergarten, please contact the appropriate school listed.
Kindergarten screening dates are as follows:
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Helen Thompson School
West Gardiner – phone: 724-3930
Friday, May 2, 2014
Laura E. Richards School
Gardiner – phone: 582-3612
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Pittston Consolidated School
Pittston – phone: 582-6268
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Teresa C. Hamlin School
Randolph – phone: 582-4252
Dear MSAD 11 Community Members:
For numerous years, the School Board has analyzed the use of its facilities to determine whether more efficient models would address our various capacity issues. Most recently we began analyzing scenarios back in the spring and ended up eliminating each of these scenarios as we realized that the issues we were looking to solve would not be addressed in a way that was in the best interest of children. Over the winter holidays, we had asked our Director of Operations, Jon Stonier, and his assistant, Gabe Dostie, to again look at the district map and show us what the student configuration in each of our elementary community schools would look like if we drew lines different from town lines. Upon reflection, extensive study, and with public participation, the School Board determined this option would also not solve the question of “how do we use our resources best.” Transportation has proven to be a challenge in all of the models and none of the models create the savings we would need to have if we were to make such a sizable change.
Therefore, at this time, we will not be closing any of our schools, nor will we be reconfiguring any of our elementary schools. Our district will remain in the “status quo” mode. At this point in time, we have budget priorities in our immediate future. We face enormous challenges both on the educational side as well as the municipal side. My hope is that you will participate in our budget process and that together we will ensure the best educational present and future for all of our children.
Dear MSAD 11 Community Members:
Last year, the School Board once again began evaluating the use of its facilities and has spent a number of months evaluating numerous options to address the underutilization of the T.C. Hamlin School and the overcrowding of the Helen Thompson School. At its last meeting, the School Board narrowed its focus to two options:
• Redraw the lines determining which students attend which school (i.e. some Gardiner students would attend T.C. Hamlin and some West Gardiner students would attend Laura E. Richards and River View).
• Turn the Laura E. Richards and the River View Schools back to Pre-K – Grade 5 schools, close T.C. Hamlin, and purchase portable units at Helen Thompson School.
Given the impact these decisions will have on our communities, we are seeking as much input from the 4 communities as possible. Beginning last spring, we have held a series of public meetings to share space and efficiency issues within our District. The issues of spacing and of financial responsibility are of utmost importance to the School Board. The feedback and input from the community and administrators have benefited our decision-making. After careful and mindful consideration, the School Board hopes to reach a decision at our next meeting, which will be held on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at the middle school at 6pm.
Understanding that change is difficult for all communities, we ask for your participation at this meeting. We will answer as many questions as time permits. It is our hope to limit the meeting to 2 hours and we will limit the amount of regular business in an effort to give this conversation the prominence it requires. These are very emotional conversations that can be polarizing and it is our personal hope we will remember that we are one school district… MSAD 11.
You can watch tonight's School Board Reconfiguration Meeting live at the following link:
Please read the letter From the Board Chairs: Final Reconfiguration Conversation for more details.
MSAD 11 is in its second year of the five year federally funded Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) 4 Grant. A total of nine school districts in Maine are receiving a TIF grant. The purpose of the grant is to assist MSAD 11 in the development of a teacher and administrator evaluation tool based on National Teacher/Administrator Standards. While we already had and were using comprehensive evaluations, the new ones include information not previously embedded in our evaluation tool, such as student academic growth data, more rigorous professional goals, peer observations, and more frequent unannounced classroom observations by administrators.
Last year, the State of Maine passed a new law requiring school districts to develop evaluation systems for teachers and administrators, which includes many of these same requirements. The $1.7 million MSAD 11 is eligible to receive this year from the TIF 4 grant will help us pay for this work. Without it, we would have been required to complete and fund this work on our own. In addition, the grant pays for teacher and administrator professional development on how the new process works and teaches us about current best instructional practices.
A requirement of the TIF 4 grant is the reward and recognition component. This part of the grant requires teachers and administrators who are deemed to be effective and who meet pre-determined benchmarks be paid a “reward and recognition” for their work. This year that amount will not exceed $1,000 per eligible teacher. The sustainability of this part of the grant remains a question.
What are we doing differently as a result of this grant?
• Administrators are annually completing 2 classroom observations on all teachers, while also completing a formal observation on 50% of the staff.
• Administrators are now being observed and provided feedback when they meet with teachers to review an observation.
The decision to cancel, delay, or release school early due to weather and road conditions is often not an easy one and can make armchair quarterbacks with 20/20 hindsight vision out of us all. Me included! Please know that considerable thought is put into every one of these decisions. Because sometimes these decisions may appear mysterious and unclear I thought it would be helpful to share the process I go through when making them.
First and foremost, safety for everyone driving to and from school is paramount. On any given school day we have hundreds of parents, staff, and inexperienced student drivers on the roads. Many of them commute considerable distances on back roads and leave early in the morning and return home late in the day. Given this, decisions are made with everyone’s safety in mind.
Before any decision is made, multiple conversations are had and calls are made to the Director of Operations who is already on the road accessing road conditions, to local road commissioners, to Gray’s National Weather Service, and to other area school superintendents to assess road conditions and forecasted weather beginning around 4:15 am. Like you, we scour the weather reports hours ahead of time trying to anticipate what the weather conditions will be when busses, students, parents, and staff are traveling to and from school, which is generally between 6:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. Decisions need to be made at least one hour before these times in order for us to have time to communicate with everyone before they leave home. These time constraints along with differing and changing forecasts can make the decision-making process tough.
Healthy Communities of the Capital Area was recently awarded a $100,000 USDA Farm to School Grant to increase access to local foods in school meals. Renee Page, from Healthy Communities of the Capital Area (HCCA), will work with MSAD 11 Gardiner Area Schools and RSU 38 Maranacook Area Schools to link them to existing online local food buying clubs, the Kennebec Local Food Initiative in Gardiner, and Maranacook Local Foods Buying Club in Readfield. This effort will help to develop resources and processes to streamline ordering, delivery, and food processing, which are known barriers to sourcing local foods. The grant also provides funding for school nutrition staff training and equipment. HCCA hosts a FoodCorps Service Member, Andrea Snow, who builds and tends school gardens and delivers agricultural-based nutrition education. She engages youth in promoting local foods in school meals. This project will serve as a pilot for replication and expansion throughout the region and develops the infrastructure necessary for successful local food procurement to incorporate more local, fresh foods into school meals while supporting local farmers and growers.
Congratulations, Gardiner! To find out more, read the following press release from NerdWallet.
Gardiner Among Best Towns in Maine for Young Families
NerdWallet considers cost of living, education, and economic growth
San Francisco, CA (November 21, 2013) – NerdWallet, a consumer advocacy website, conducted a study on the best towns in Maine for young families, and Gardiner is in the top ten.
To find the best places for future parents and young families to settle down, NerdWallet analyzed data from 59 towns in the Pine Tree State according to five criteria:
1. Public school ratings
2. Median home value
3. Cost of homeownership
4. Median income
5. Economic growth
NerdWallet ranked Gardiner ninth after assessing the town’s cost of living, education system, and economic growth. The town has the most third-most affordable homes prices of all towns in the top ten—average home values are $151,200.
“Situated outside of Augusta, Gardiner is located in Kennebec County. The town’s school district has improved greatly in recent years,” said NerdWallet analyst Mike Anderson. “Over the last six years, student achievement scores on math and reading assessments have steadily gone from below the state average to one point above.”
Read the full study online: http://www.nerdwallet.co...
For more information about NerdWallet, visit www.nerdwallet.com.
NerdWallet is a consumer-friendly financial literacy website that helps individuals make better financial decisions and set effective financial goals. NerdWallet has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Reuters.
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