Posts Tagged ‘reform in Maine’

Positive Pressure and Support: Driving Your Initiative to a High Level of Implementation

June 14, 2012

Ok. It’s no secret.

Just having professional development doesn’t mean that your initiative is going to get implemented or implemented well. It doesn’t mean that your initiative will have it’s desired effect on your school.

Sure. PD is critical to getting where you’re going. But it isn’t sufficient.

Level of implementation matters.

A lot.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get better at implementing your laptops, or you’re using Bright Futures to look at your middle level practice, or if you’re working on a literacy initiative, or implementing the Common Core, or on Customized Learning, if you want your initiative to have the impact you’re looking for, then you need to insure that you have a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity.

So, how do you get to a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity?

The answer is possitive pressure and support.

Positive pressure and support has three easy pieces: expect, supervise, & support.

Expecting includes strategies like starting simple, participating yourself in trainings and meetings, having teachers set goals, and collaboratively setting expectations.

Supervising includes checking with teachers, talking about implementation at meetings, doing walk throughs, and talking about the walk through and level of implementation data.

Finally, support includes things like celebrating successes, facilitating the sharing of ideas, providing opportunities for PD (of course!), providing resources, and removing barriers and running interference.


How could positive pressure and support help your work at your school?


Interested in Customized Learning? Take a Look at These Books

October 22, 2011

Are all your students learning well, getting good grades, scoring well on tests?

Ours aren’t either.

I think that’s the case with a lot of schools. I think that’s why 9 districts have formed the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning (MCCL) and why Maine’s Education Commissioner Bowen is so actively pursuing customized learning.

So if you want to read more about customized learning, what might you read? Take a look at these three books. All three focus on different approaches to and aspects of customizing learning. They all share the idea that we can customize learning by starting with learning targets and then students collaborating with their teachers to master those targets in interesting and meaningful ways.


Book: Delivering on the Promise

The 9 Maine districts who have become members of MCCL are exploring the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) model. Delivering on the Promise by Rich DeLorenzo and team, provides a nice 30,000 foot view of how the approach was developed in one Alaskan school district, and of the components of the approach.





Inevitable, by Bea McGarvey and Chuck Schwann, both makes the case for mass customized learning, but also lays out a vision of what it might look like and how we might do it. My district has had members of the visioning committee (made up of educators and community members) and the entire administrative team read this book, as well as having made copies of the book available to community members. Commission Bowen had all his department heads read this book, and now asks each department how they are moving in that direction.



Book: Passion for Learning

Another approach to customized learning is student-designed standards-based projects. The Minnesota New Country School is given much credit for developing this model, and their work has been recognized by the US Department of Education, and others. Ron Newell has captured this work and makes clear the student-designed project approach in Passion for Learning.



It’s Your Turn
What are your favorite readings about customized learning?
Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite parts?
What are your thoughts about how the ideas in the books might come to life in your school?

Why the Reform Will be Led From the Middle

June 15, 2011

This blog post was submitted by Bill Zima and is the first in a series of posts on the changes in Maine education. Bill can be reached by emailing (after July 1st).

One would need to avoid all forms of media to not realize that the American public wants to reform the way we educate our youth. From movies to blogs, people question if we are properly preparing our students for the challenges of a global economy. Our current system of education was designed for a very different time. An era when it was important to identify students who could remember reams of information. Those that could memorize fell onto one path preparing them to be doctors and lawyers and those that could not fell to other paths. Doctors after all needed to diagnose patients quickly and correctly. Having to refer to the medical books consumed time that was not always available.

The needs of today are different. Colleges and schools are no longer the “seats of knowledge”.  Google and Wikipedia are committed to making the world’s knowledge available to all. To be competitive, one needs to be able to use readily available knowledge in novel situations to help solve a problem we may not even be aware of today. ‘Knowing that’ is not the same as understanding why something is true. As educators today, are roles are not to teach our students everything, but to prepare them for anything.

Many of the education reformers of today, from Marzano to Hess and Wormeli to Costa, promote student-centered classrooms where students demonstrate their understanding of specific learning targets within their zone of proximal development in ways that engage their interests and see them as a person of a larger community. Sound familiar? It should if you have read the Bright Futures document from the Maine Department of Education. The characteristics that will make successful 21st century schools, from well-defined learning outcomes to a collaborative, democratic environment, are the same as those identified as keys to a great middle school. After working for the past several years on transitioning to a proficiency-based, student-centered system of instruction, I have recognized that assuring the twelve core practices found in Bright Futures are supported through action in our school, the path to this goal is much clearer.

So what can we as Middle Level Educators do to develop our understanding of the Bright Futures document, advocate for reform and lead these changes? That is a question with many answers. Some that come to mind are:

  • Attend the Middle Level Education Institute in August at Thomas College and/or the fall MAMLE conference at Sugarloaf and join in the conversation.
  • Record the great things your school is doing to meet one or more of the core practices and share it in a professional publication, like the Maine ASCD journal, MAMLE’s Newsletter or the Bright Futures Blog.
  • Communicate to your colleagues at different levels in your district how the work you are doing at the middle school meets the student’s learning level while teaching responsibility by increasing their autonomy for the task.
  • Email your local and federal representatives and let them know that the reforms they seek are already part of the middle level movement (they just need to be fully embraced and implemented).

Middle Level Educators need to lead the reform to create schools that develop leaders who are responsible and not simply compliant; thinkers and not knowers. It is already in our creed as a Middler.

I will share my perspective on the alignment of the 12 Core Practices and the elements of a student-centered, proficiency-based system of instruction in subsequent blog posts.

What are your suggested ways to advocate for and support the 12 core practices of Bright Futures: Please leave a comment.

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