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Partnerships Column

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While education research may at times dwell on the arcane and obscure, education professors at the University of Maine want to make sure their work is in sync with the practical needs of classroom teachers.

Last year, the university's college of education forged a partnership with the Maine Principals Association to identify the research questions that concern the state's educators.

"We were looking for a means to get closer to the action at the school-building level," said Bob Cobb, the dean of the college of education.

"Achieving this has mutually beneficial goals," he added, "that the university people are really connected with the true issues and realities of public schools, and that the decisions made in public schools are research based, and the policies that result are driven more by systematic inquiry, not on intuition."

More than 120 principals and researchers met for the first time at the college last May, and they have held follow-up regional meetings around the state since then.

Most of the issues the principals have raised fall into three broad categories, Mr. Cobb said: "contextual" issues, including scheduling, school structure and governance, and technology; curricular and instructional issues, including the effectiveness of interdisciplinary instruction; and testing and assessment.

This month and next, the partnership will serve as host for two statewide meetings to discuss several pressing topics, including "issues of the contemporary principalship," an area that includes such concerns as stress, the changing role of principals under site-based management and shared decisionmaking, and the supply of and demand for principals.

Faculty members and graduate students at the college of education will also help school officials design research instruments they can use to evaluate specific programs in their schools.

They will also aid them in the study of reform strategies like the impact of block scheduling on students' academic achievement.

The education college has an enrollment of more than 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students. More information about the partnership is available from Sally Mackenzie, a former high school teacher and the project's coordinator, at (207) 581-2427 or by e-mail at

--Meg Sommerfeld

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