A Puzzle and a Ray of Hope


When it comes to moving a vision forward it is abundantly clear that leadership and the quality of that leadership matters. Exceptional leadership moves everything and everyone forward expeditiously. Poor or misguided leadership is a disaster for everyone and everything. The effect of leadership, for good or bad seems to be exponential in its impact.

So today I’m puzzled by how it is that so many excellent educators in the field and those on the forefront of writing and research on learning and teaching clearly arrive at one set of conclusions about what works best for helping kids (relationships, engagement, relevance, collaboration, whole child, developmentally appropriate practices, 21st century skills, etc. etc.) while many national, state and local policy makers clearly arrive at a completely different set of conclusions about what should be happening. (more high stakes standardized testing, reliance on poor research, scripted curricula, punitive sanctions, silver bullets, fewer resources for education, less focus on the arts, etc. etc.) So what the heck is going on here?

While this is a vexing puzzle, all is not lost!  I’ll share a ray of hope for middle level education and beyond here in Maine.

The new commissioner of education, Steve Bowen, is a former middle school teacher! He wants to implement student centered standards based learning in Maine. (If you’re not sure what that is just Google it!) He has brought on a new deputy commissioner, Don Siviski, who has deep roots in middle level education. Both see that effective middle level education has always been, and IS still student centered standards based learning. These two new key leadership pieces along with our intrepid MDOE middle level consultant, Argy Nestor, could represent the proverbial stars and planets aligning to move effective middle level student centered education in Maine forward over the next few years. As the new deputy said at a recent meeting, “A flock of geese is led by the lead goose, always in the middle”.  So, if you’ve been wanting to advocate for excellent middle level student centered practices and policies, but have wondered wondered whether “they” will hear you, now is the time! Stay tuned for more developments in the coming weeks!


4 Responses to “A Puzzle and a Ray of Hope”

  1. Mary Callan Says:

    Thanks for sharing this hopeful posting. Many of us have been increasingly discouraged the past several years and it appears that the tides may be turning. I am wondering what those “in the field” would want/expect from groups such as the Middle Level Partnership and MAMLE during this window of opportunity? I would love to hear some (MANY) of their voices so we will best know how to advocate for those who are doing this work….

    • Chris Toy Says:

      It would be great to hear from the brightfutures4me readers about their hopes and questions for the new leadership at DOE! So what do you say all of you out there? What ARE some of your hopes and questions??? Post them here and we’ll see that they see what you post!

  2. Catherine Ring Says:

    Thanks, Chris, for articulating this puzzling state we’re in, and the ray of hope you offer. You’re absolutely right about the fantastic leader we have in Argy Nestor and I’m really appreciative of your confidence in our new Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. We need to support great leaders when we see them!!

    • Chris Toy Says:

      For sure Catherine! Even the most courageous leaders need to hear that their efforts and risk taking are worthwhile. It just occurred to me that courage and encouragement go hand in hand.

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