The academic program at SAD4 is guided by several factors: 1) a commitment to student achievement, 2) state level requirements, 3) sound educational research, and 4) community input.
In today’s world, where access to educational opportunities is constantly available in a variety of formats, it is increasingly more important for K-12 public schools to attend to the needs of all students. Attending to such student diversity means that we need to make sure all graduating students have fundamental knowledge and skills to prepare them for immediate entrance to either the work force, the military, or continued academic pursuits at the post secondary level. Obviously, there is no longer a “one-size-fits-all” version of education. Existence in a global community dictates a more diversified understanding and approach to education and life-long learning. The previous reality of “25 year” careers in a single field are quickly vanishing … even in rural Maine. We have only to look at the ebb and flow of our mills and other long-standing industries to see that our children will not experience the “working world” as we have. Continued education and / or re-training opportunities will be the necessary reality for today’s school children. The achievement of a high school diploma can no longer be thought of as a possible end of educational pursuits. Instead, we have to view the high school diploma as the certificate that documents a students’ readiness to BEGIN participating in a global community where life-long learning is a must!
It is an absolute impossibility for K-12 schools to provide their students with all the knowledge and skills needed for success as adults. Because of the continually changing technological world, we can no longer even predict the jobs of the future, never mind the skills needed to successfully do those jobs! K-12 schools have to shift their focus to one where they provide learning opportunities for students that will allow them to build a strong foundation in core subject areas while learning to develop a variety of personal attributes and behaviors that will allow them to participate in a constantly changing global community.
With this perspective of public education and a commitment to all students, how does a school determine the necessary foundational knowledge and accompanying set of personal attributes and behaviors? In Maine, it is a shared responsibility between the Department of Education and the local school boards.
In 1997, the Maine Department of Education adopted a set of standards of learning called the “Maine Learning Results”. Maine statute requires that schools provide instruction in eight content areas: Career and Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education and Physical Education, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, Visual and Performing Arts and World Languages. Since that time, the content of those educational standards has been reviewed and revised, with the latest revision in 2007. In the subjects of English language arts and mathematics, however, the Maine standards were replaced with New England regional standards in 2009. These new standards, known as Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) were adopted as part of MDOE Regulation 131: The Maine Federal, State, and Local Accountability Standards. This change in learning standards also required a change in state mandated testing for those subject areas. In 2011, with the rise in popularity of the Common Core State Standards, Maine again replaced its required standards for English language arts and mathematics. The necessary adjustment in state mandated testing, to reflect the learning expectations proposed in the Common Core State Standards, is slated to happen in the spring of 2015.
In 2007 with the revision of the Maine Learning Results: Parameters for Essential Instruction, the Department of Education also included a collection of more generic, 21st-Century skills-based building blocks known as the “Guiding Principles”. These Guiding Principles define the attributes and behaviors that students should have before graduating. The Guiding Principles incorporate all content areas and ask students to synthesize the knowledge and skills they learn in each content area of the Learning Results.
Because of local control, the various state mandates and guiding documents may look a bit different in the school systems throughout Maine. For example, at SAD4, the attributes and behaviors outlined in the Guiding Principles document have been more fully developed and serve as the basis for the district’s “Pirate Code of Conduct”. The district uses the “Pirate Code of Conduct” to instruct and assess students’ progress with respect to these guiding principles of behavior. If the state desires that graduating students have a particular skill set, then districts have the responsibility for creating the opportunities to learn and demonstrate those various skills. Our Pirate Code of Conduct is one such document that helps SAD4 with that endeavor.
When it comes to the desired foundational knowledge in the 8 different subject areas, again, the Maine Department of Education outlines the desired standards at each grade level and the local districts use these standards to focus and inform curriculum development. The local curriculum will show the learning opportunities designed to allow students to achieve the various subject area standards. Teachers and administrators use not only educational research to inform instructional practice but also an understanding of and appreciation for community relevance and input. Consequently, curriculum work is an ongoing process.
Because each grade level and subject specific course is aligned to the prescribed standards of learning, SAD4 adheres to the philosophy that achievement of the standards is documented by the successful completion of each course at each grade level. Although the reporting scores used to denote level of success is different between the two buildings, both methods achieve the desired goal of recording student progress. At PCES, the scoring method is based on a 1-4 scale with 3 (see table below) being the expected proficiency score. At PCSS, the scoring method is based on the A-F scale with a C being the lowest allowable proficiency score. Students achieving a C or better in all of the required high school courses will help the district ensure students’ future success as we transition to the 2018 requirement of a “Proficiency-Based Diploma.”
Listed below are several links to a variety of Department of Education web sites that help further explain Maine’s approach to education.
The collection of Maine’s Learning Results Documents can be found at this website: http://www.maine.gov/education/lres/pei/
Maine Learning Results: Narration Notes - http://www.maine.gov/doe/socialstudies/standards/narration.html
Maine Learning Results: Updated To Reflect the Common Core Standards - http://www.maine.gov/doe/commoncore/
Maine Learning Results: Rules Document - http://www.maine.gov/education/LR%20Rules%20Document.htm
Guiding Principles - http://www.maine.gov/doe/proficiency/standards/guiding-principles.html