Commissioner visits school to see literary pilot program


PERU — Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert Hasson visited Dirigo Elementary School on Wednesday to see how a literacy program known as Momentum is progressing.

The program provides students in grades kindergarten through three with iPads, and their teachers with professional coaching.

“These are the schools that have the most potential for growth in the area of literacy. We are running (the program) as a pilot to see if this model works both for professional learning for the teachers, and that the student’s literacy improves,” Hasson said.

While visiting, Hasson planned to talk with teachers “to see if there’s anything they want me to celebrate or if there’s anything they want me to (know about) barriers at this point so we can correct those barriers.”

He also wanted to know what the teachers’ suggestions were, and if they had ideas for upgrades to the pilot and how the experience could be improved.

“It’s great seeing the students and teachers; it’s a great day,” Hasson said.

Lisa Sleight, a Momentum literacy coach for Dirigo and China elementary schools, also attended Hasson’s visit.

The two-year Momentum pilot program began last January and is currently being run in nine Maine schools across the state, extending from Limestone and down to southern Maine, Sleight said.

“It’s an initiative to look at best literacy practices in schools,” she said. Assessment programs that monitor students are available on a weekly basis through a computer application, along with state Northwest Evaluation Association assessments.

“One of the constant struggles in the schools are the students’ varying needs in the classroom,” said school Principal Charles Swan. Because some students are working at their grade level while others are above or below, the different programs and computer applications help to individualize the instruction for teaching literacy, he said.

“The benefit from professional development alone has been phenomenal for us,” he said.

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Dirigo Elementary School second-grade student Makenzie Woods works on her iPad while Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert Hasson looks on. 

Dirigo Elementary School kindergarten teacher Danielle Afari helps students Gunnar Knowlton, left, and Leigha Roy on their iPads on Wednesday.

Dirigo Elementary School kindergarten student Adrian Couch works on his iPad on Wednesday.

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert Hasson, right, meets with educators and administrators at Dirigo Elementary School on Wednesday to talk about the Momentum pilot program.