Education officials seeking public input in advance of imminent federal waiver application

Posted Aug. 15, 2012, at 4:17 p.m.
Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen
Pat Wellenbach | AP
Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Education, which will apply to the federal government in the coming weeks to implement a new system for holding public schools accountable and helping them improve, has scheduled three opportunities next week for the public to weigh in on the issue.

The department will submit a request for flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to the U.S Department of Education by Sept. 6, according to a press release. Though the department has released few details about what the waiver application will contain, it has published some general information on its Accountability & Improvement System web page. The application will seek to implement college- and career-ready standards that graduates must attain; hold schools accountable for growth and provide customized support and interventions; and initiate measures to promote effective teaching methods and better administrative guidance.

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, his staff and four working groups have been collecting information for months. Several public listening sessions have been held throughout Maine and, according to department spokesman David Connerty-Marin, an ongoing online survey on the topic garnered more than 1,500 responses. Maine and many other states are applying for waivers in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — which is President Barack Obama’s version of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind — after a decision in September 2011 to allow states to apply for the waivers. ESEA, in part, outlines a series of performance benchmarks schools are required to reach with the intention of bringing all students to 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

Maine and most other states are lagging behind the benchmarks and the gap is widening as the requirements become more stringent.

An online forum to discuss the issue is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday. Participants may enroll by visiting www.maine.gov/doe/accountability and clicking on “participate.”

In-person public forums are scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, in the Westbrook Middle School cafeteria at 471 Stroudwater St. in Westbrook, and 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23, in the Brewer Community School cafeteria at 92 Pendleton St. in Brewer.

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