BREWER, Maine — Hundreds of Maine teachers are spending the tail end of their summer breaks learning how to ensure their students meet raised academic expectations and make it through school prepared for the future.
About 125 K-12 educators attended the Pathways Toward Proficiency 2015 Summer Literacy Institute, sponsored by the Maine Department of Education, at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer on Monday. More than 400 Maine teachers are expected to participate in the four, two-day sessions across the state in August.
“This will strengthen our approaches to instruction in the classroom,” said Kara McCrimmon, an instructor at Cobscook Community Learning Center in Trescott.
Teachers, led by education department officials, spent part of Monday reading “Katie’s Trunk” by Ann Turner. The short story is written from the perspective of a child in a Loyalist family whose home is ransacked during the American Revolution.
The educators reviewed Maine’s learning standards and broke out into groups to discuss the text at various levels of complexity — from rehashing its surface-level meaning and theme to the more difficult task of relating the book to personal life experiences and cultural conditions. They’ll take that sort of exercise back to their classrooms.
Maine’s roughly 15,000 teachers have a big task ahead of them and are working to reshape how education happens in the state’s classrooms.
“We’re seeing a movement toward making sure the child has learned what they need to learn before moving on to the next thing,” said Tom Desjardin, Maine DOE’s acting commissioner, at Monday’s session.
Maine education officials have said that schools have to do a better job preparing the state’s students to enter a competitive global and national workforce. Maine schools are moving toward proficiency-based diplomas in 2018, meaning students will graduate when they can demonstrate proficiency in subject areas, such as math, language and science, rather than pushing them on after they take a required number of credits.
“The focus now is on whether they’ve learned, not whether they’ve managed to put in the time they need to,” Desjardin said.
On Tuesday, math teachers will meet for a separate session in Bangor to run through standards their students are expected to achieve and work through ways to help students get there.
Other workshops will be held in Lewiston on Aug. 13-14 and Saco on Aug. 17-18. A workshop in Presque Isle was held earlier this month.
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