Calais Elementary School Gains “MoMEntum”

By Kaileigh Deacon


For most students the first years of school are not only the most fun and exciting, they are also the most critical in their education. Developing literacy enables children to attain the education they need. The Maine Department of Education has created a pilot program called MoMEntum for grades K-3 using technology to help students with literacy and so far in the Calais school system students have shown remarkable gain.

The pilot program includes nine schools across the state of Maine selecting one from each of the nine superintendent regions. There were specific guidelines that schools had to meet in order to be selected for the program. Calais met those requirements and has been participating in the program for about a year. 

MoMEntum provides schools with not only the technology they need to complete the pilot testing but also resources to help with all of it. Schools like Calais that were selected to participate in the program were given iPads as well as access to a literacy coach and a technology coordinator. The technology coordinator and the literacy coach come twice a month to the schools to help them with prep work for teachers and getting students what they need, based on NWEA testing.

The literacy coach and technology coordinator also work with the students, teaching them some basic skills they can then apply not just to literacy at the work associated with the MoMEntum program, but all areas of their school work. For example, the tech coordinator has worked with the students on some basic programming and digital photography skills on the iPads. 

While the kids are learning about the technology and having fun, the teachers are also learning. The teachers get to learn the same applications that the students are using so that they can help with issues and be familiar with what students are doing. Rather than having to learn multiple applications, the teachers can keep the numbers down and be more knowledgeable about the ones that are used.

The testing allows teachers and their supporting coordinators to tailor applications on the iPads for the students so they can get what they need. “Based on the scores we will provide applications and skills for kids and get them what they need to fill what they’re missing,” Calais second grade teacher Sean Cavanaugh said.

The teachers allow students to use the iPads to help them build their literacy skills through these applications. After one year in the MoMEntum program, the Calais Elementary School specifically saw an improvement of 160%. So far the program has focused on a wide range of skill levels in schools but all have shown growth. 

Over the course of the program’s two years, the state of Maine has been evaluating everything the schools in the pilot have done and started on working to see if the program will benefit schools. By having the two-year pilot program the state can see what parts of the program worked and how they would be able to incorporate them into the schools that need them. 

“Just having basic reading skills isn’t enough. Students need content knowledge as well,” Cavanaugh said. The MoMEntum program will work on finding ways to get kids the balance they need in literacy to help round out their success in other academics.