AUGUSTA – Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen announced Friday that he will resign effective Sept. 12 to take a job with the national Council of Chief State School Officers, according to a statement from Gov. Paul LePage.

Bowen, who was appointed by LePage in March 2011, will be the organization’s strategic initiative director of innovation and oversee its Innovation Lab Network.

“This is not a step I take lightly,” wrote Bowen in his resignation letter. “I firmly believe in the reform work we are doing here in Maine and I am confident that the reforms we have advanced, both in terms of education policy and in terms of how the Department of Education does its work to support schools and students, will lead to improved student outcomes.”

Bowen, a former state legislator and LePage transition team adviser who lives in Rockport, will be based in Maine for his new position but will travel throughout the U.S. on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Bowen has led a range of education reforms under LePage, including the passage of Maine’s first-ever law allowing charter schools, an A-through-F grading system, a proficiency-based diploma that ensures high school students will be college or career ready upon graduation and a system of teacher and school administrator accountability, among others. Under Bowen, the Maine Department of Education was also successful in securing a flexibility agreement with the U.S. Department of Education around the former No Child Left Behind Act. The agreement allows struggling Maine schools to implement improvement measures without having to meet the stringent NCLB requirement that 100 percent of students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

“I am pleased that Steve will be working to implement innovative practices throughout the nation’s educational systems,” said LePage in a prepared statement. “It is encouraging that a national organization committed to educational excellence has recognized Commissioner’s Bowen passion and dedication for improving schools and student outcomes. We wish him well, and we hope that he can continue to improve Maine’s educational system by introducing best practices from around the country to our state.”

The administration will name an acting commissioner in the coming weeks as Bowen works with other DOE officials to ensure a smooth transition.

The Council of Chief State School Officers is a nationwide, nonpartisan and nonprofit membership organization that helps education chiefs in all states implement reforms that prepare students for life after public school.

Chris Minnich, the organization’s executive director, said he was “thrilled” that Bowen took the job.

“States across the country are focused on ensuring all students graduate from high school ready for college and career,” he said in a prepared statement. “They recognize in order to achieve this goal they need to provide innovative solutions to traditional problems and rethink how best to deliver education today. Steve has led Maine in developing some of the most innovative education practices in the country and we look forward to bringing his experience and leadership to the national level.”

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