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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools


FROM:            J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner


DATE:             February 6, 2002


RE:                   Department Proceeds with Work on Local Assessment Development



We understand that there are many reports circulating about the status of the Department’s contract for local assessment system development.  As you know, this was bid through a Request for Proposals last fall.  Although a bidder was selected from those who responded to the RFP, the subsequent efforts of the parties to reach an agreement were unsuccessful.  Therefore, the Department has rescinded the award, and no award will be made pursuant to this RFP.

The Department of Education is proceeding with other options in order to accomplish this important work without delay.  The scope of the work to be completed by the Department is the same as outlined in the communication sent earlier this week.  Rather than making one award to do all of the work in the RFP, two targeted contracts will be awarded for specific aspects of the work.  The technical aspects of the assessment system model will be completed by this summer through a cooperative agreement with the College of Education at the University of Maine, employing state and national assessment specialists.  We will contract with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, working with other content-based collaboratives, to develop local assessments on the schedule previously outlined:  a sample of assessments will be developed by September with the rest developed by December of 2002, and field-testing will be concluded by the summer of 2003.  Ted Coladarci, Professor at the College of Education specializing in assessment, will provide leadership to the Technical Advisory Committee on Local Assessment Systems, co-chairing this group with Pam Rolfe, the Department’s Local Assessment Coordinator.  They will be joined by distinguished state and national leaders in local assessment.

On February 11th and 13th, there will be an opportunity for school superintendents and others to ask questions about the proposed model and to glean more detail about the timeline for this work.  At that time, we will also share suggestions in response to a question many of you have been asking: “What work should we be doing while we wait for the Department to complete this contract work?”  I urge you to attend or to send a representative from your district to one of these information sessions.

In the next month we will be forwarding a survey to school systems to learn the status of work in developing assessments and assessment systems in your school system.  Our local assessment team will follow that survey with a more in-depth conversation if you have assessments you are willing to share with other school systems.  The Department’s local assessment team is led by Pam Rolfe, working with two distinguished educators:  Marsha Cottrell and Denice Hatch.  If necessary we will add another distinguished educator to the team. 

Recently, we have heard concerns about whether school systems will be able to continue to use their locally developed indicators to measure student progress on the content standards of the Learning Results.  Certainly, this work is useful both for the meaningful local process to develop it and for the quality of the result.  As you know, the Performance Indicators included in Maine’s Learning Results, distributed widely by the state, were adopted by the Legislature in 1997.  As such, these are the indicators that the Department uses to assess student progress on the content standards.  If your school system developed other indicators and is currently developing assessments aligned to these indicators to measure progress on the content standards, you will need to be able to specify how your indicators address the state’s performance indicators. 

We have also heard concerns about how the level of difficulty of the local assessment system compares with the MEA, and how this will be affected by the new federal requirements.  First, in order to increase congruence of state and federal requirements, the measure we currently use for Adequate Yearly Progress will be modified over the next year to more closely align with the work in Maine to implement local assessment systems.  Maine’s focus for school assistance is on reducing the percentage of students who “Do Not Meet” the MEA performance standard.  Second, some have misinterpreted the proposed provisions of Chapter 127 regarding the expectation that the local assessment system will have comparable rigor to the MEA.  While any given local assessment obviously may have wide differences from the MEA in terms of student results for that assessment, a local assessment system, as a whole, should produce similar profiles by performance level to those produced by the MEA.  Third, while so much of this is new ground, remember that overall, Maine students and schools perform very well compared to the nation.  As we gain understanding of the federal requirements over the next several months it will be important to keep this in mind.  With our ingenuity as educators in Maine and with our history of high student performance, we will surely be able to satisfy these new, elevated expectations.

We look forward to our work with a set of distinguished collaborators to assist schools all over Maine in this next phase of our common endeavor to raise standards for all students, through the design, development, and field-testing of local assessments that will be available for adoption and use at the local level.