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TO:          Superintendents of Schools and Principals


FROM:    J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner


DATE:     November 15, 2002


RE:           Assessment and Accountability






Many significant policy changes have occurred in the past year.  Rules to implement the system of Learning Results have been enacted, which provide specific timeframes and requirements for school systems, schools, students, and the State.  The No Child Left Behind Act, with over 1000 pages of statutory language and requirements, was championed by President Bush and was passed with strong bi-partisan support in Congress.  It is now the law of the land.  Parts of this far-reaching legislation are very complex; and even in Washington the interpretation of aspects of the statute are open to question.  Nevertheless, we are now, at both the state and local levels, faced with implementing these requirements.

This letter provides an update on many of the initiatives the State has underway to address this policy and its relationship to the implementation of Maine’s Learning Results.  In a separate letter, we will address the No Child Left Behind Act initiatives.

Graduation Waiver:  Chapter 127 provides for a waiver of graduation requirements for one year in the content areas of Health and Physical Education, Science and Technology, and Social Studies.  Instead of requiring each unit to apply for a waiver, I am granting a one-year waiver to 2007-2008 for section 7.02.A.2) of Chapter 127 in the content areas of Health and Physical Education, Science and Technology, and Social Studies, based on the documentation of actions to meet the requirements that will be included in the Comprehensive Education Plan adopted in each school system by the end of this school year, and based on the financial resources available.  There will be a line for superintendents to check related to this waiver on the new school approval form submitted by each school system during the summer.

This means that the current 8th grade class (graduating in 2007) will be required to meet the standards of the system of Learning Results in the content areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics in order to receive a high school diploma.  The current 7th grade class (graduating in 2008) will be required to meet the standards of the system of Learning Results in English Language Arts and Mathematics plus the content areas of Health and Physical Education, Science and Technology, and Social Studies in order to receive a high school diploma. 

Assessment Development:  Graduation eligibility will be determined by the comprehensive local assessment system that each school system must adopt and begin implementing by the end of the 2003-2004 school year.  Please note that it is not necessary to have this complete before the current eighth graders begin high school in this first year of implementation of a local assessment system.  In the transition into a standards-based diploma, there may be English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments that ultimately will occur in ninth grade, but that are not available for this class until they are in the tenth grade.  School systems may accelerate the timeline to adopt their high school English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments this spring, a year ahead of the specified deadline, but this is not required or expected. 

The State has contracted with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance for assessment development to provide local school systems with choices of assessments to adopt, in addition to those being developed locally.  All assessments that are finalized through this contract will meet the standards of Chapter 127 for assessments that could be included in a local assessment system.  This past summer, Assessment Development Institutes were held in five content areas to develop assessments for each grade span, including assessments that measure a single content standard, more than one content standards in a content area, and more than one content area.  Literally hundreds of assessments were either developed or adapted from national sources by the Maine educators who participated in the Institutes. 

In October, nine regional meetings were held to release 80 of these assessments for piloting in local schools, and 160 more will be released for piloting in January.  A group of educators is meeting to focus specifically on the development of quality performance exhibitions.  The Maine Assessment Portfolio (MAP) is also available in English Language Arts, Health, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies, at, and the Maine Physical Education Assessments (MPEA) are ready for field-testing. 

While the State is continuing its assessment system development work on the schedule established over a year ago, we are also providing technical assistance to the continuing work of local school systems and regional collaboratives.  Nine regional workshops are being held to share a review tool (known as a “task adaptation protocol”) that can be used to evaluate and adapt assessments as needed for a local assessment system.  The Washington and York County meetings have already been held.  The remaining sessions are as follows:

Nov 21                1 to 4 pm           United Technologies Center in Bangor

Dec 9                  1 to 4 pm            UMPI Student Center in Presque Isle

Dec 12                1 to 4 pm            Sheraton in South Portland

Dec 13                9 am to noon       Holiday Inn Civic Center in Augusta

Jan 8                   1 to 4 pm            Holiday Inn Ellsworth

Jan 13                 1 to 4 pm            High Street Congregational Church in Auburn

Jan 16                 1 to 4 pm            Midcoast School of Technology in Rockland

We encourage you to participate in the State’s assessment development process in any way you can, either through attending these workshops, piloting assessments, or serving as a field-test site.  In the past few days, you should have received the second monthly newsletter that the Alliance has published in conjunction with the Department to provide periodic updates on the status of this work.  We invite you to visit the Department’s assessment web page at in preparation for the implementation of an assessment system by the end of the next school year.

Content Standard Clusters and Balance of Representation:  The development of an assessment system with multiple types of assessments used to provide evidence of a student’s performance presents technical issues that are currently before the Assessment Technical Advisory Committee.  Chaired by Ted Coladarci with Pam Rolfe in the lead for local assessment and Brud Maxcy guiding state assessment, this committee’s work includes issues such as how much weight each content standard or performance indicator should have in a local assessment system, and how much evidence will be needed to provide sufficient information for a school system to be able to make judgments about the performance of a student or a school.  The National Center for the Improvement of Education Assessment is advising us on these matters.  Several steps have been undertaken.

First, it is clear in Chapter 127 that it is not a requirement that we assess each performance indicator in the system of Learning Results.  In addition, while each grade span addresses the same content standards, the relative importance of these standards changes over the four grade spans of a students K-12 education.  This recognition is known as the “Balance of Representation” of the content standards and indicators.  Last May and June the Department conducted a two-day institute involving hundreds of Maine educators to identify a Balance of Representation for all eight content areas of the Learning Results.  While this is not the only balance that could be chosen, it is the balance being used by the Department for all assessment development work.  That is, the assessments that the Department will make available for local school systems to adopt as part of a local assessment system will emphasize standards and indicators in accordance with the Balance of Representation Institute.  If a school system chooses a different emphasis than this, there may be the need for some local assessment development in addition to what the Department will provide.

In past years, both the Policy Advisory Committee and the Technical Advisory Committee recommended consideration of clustering the content standards within a content area so that a student’s performance on some indicators could compensate for lower performance on others.  In keeping with this, content area specialists developed a preliminary clustering of content standards for use in the development of assessments during the past summer.  This work will provide up to four clusters in each content area.  For students to be certified in a content area, they must demonstrate through assessment of each cluster that they meet the necessary performance level for the content area.  This could mean that high performance on some content standards could compensate for lower performance on other content standards.  Later in this school year, the Technical Advisory Committee will review the preliminary clusters and make a final recommendation about which standards should be clustered and how assessment should be spread across these clusters. 

Finally, Chapter 127 specifies that the local assessment system must provide sufficient evidence to certify a student’s performance.  Too much evidence means that more time is spent on assessment than is needed.  Insufficient evidence means that it is more likely that decisions made about a student could be wrong – either that a student who doesn’t really meet the standard is certified as meeting it, or a student who really does meet a standard is required to provide more evidence.  The Technical Advisory Committee is addressing this issue with the National Assessment Center and will have a recommendation in the next two months. 

Alternate Assessment:  The development of the Personalized Alternate Assessment Portfolio (PAAP) as the alternate assessment to the MEA is proceeding on schedule.  For the last two years, some students with specific learning needs (either Special Education, Chapter 504, or ESL) have participated in the MEA through Alternate Assessment.  Those participating through this avenue are students who cannot participate in the MEA  even with accommodations.  The 2001-2003 school years have been used to gather baseline data with full implementation, including reporting and accountability, to begin in 2003-2004.

 Alternate assessment must also be a consideration in the development of local assessment systems.  While the assessment of eligible students will continue to be determined by a team, the Department is working with advisory groups and contractors to provide assistance in the development of an alternate assessment model, similar in structure to the PAAP, for all of the content standards of the Learning Results (not just what is assessed by the MEA).  Information about this assessment work was included in a focused information letter to superintendents sent in September.

Recently, questions have arisen about graduation requirements for students with an IEP, 504 plan.  Chapter 127 specifies that students who successfully meet the content standards of the Learning Results, as specified in the goals and objectives of their Individualized Education Plans, will be awarded diplomas.  Thus, a student’s IEP or 504 Plan must address how diploma requirements will be met, and the student will receive a diploma only if the student meets the standards of the Learning Results as specified in the IEP or 504 Plan.

Data Management Systems:  A major implication of the expanded assessment requirements is the need for vast improvement in the management of data in local schools, within the Department, and the data flow between the Department and local schools.  Karen Caprio, a Distinguished Educator with the Department for this school year, is the lead person for this work.  She has convened the School Data Work Group to identify the data needs of school systems.  This work has been matched to the state and federal data collection requirements to develop the specifications for the data management system that will be ready for use by school systems and the Department during the summer of 2003.  In early December, we will release the specific parameters for the data management system that the Department will be developing for school system use.

Comprehensive Education Plan:  As required in Chapter 125, each school system must adopt a Comprehensive Education Plan by the end of this school year.  Eventually, this plan will address all plans required by state or federal law, as listed on the Department’s Web Page.  In the past month, there have been three informational forums held in nine locations using the Department’s distance learning system, to assist school systems with developing a Comprehensive Education Plan in the required timeframe.  During the forums, issues requiring further clarification were raised, and topics were identified for a one-day planning session to be held in Augusta this December.  Please contact Deputy Commissioner Judy Lucarelli or your regional Department representative with questions about the comprehensive planning process.

Role of the MEA in Local Assessment Systems:  As required in Chapter 127, each student and each school must participate in the MEA, and each school system must specify the role of the MEA in its Local Assessment System.  A separate informational letter will address the new requirement that all students participate in the MEA. 

The Assessment Policy Advisory Committee, chaired by Mark Eastman, is currently considering parameters for how school systems might weight the MEA in adopting a local assessment system, with specific consideration to the role of the MEA in the certification of a student for a high school diploma.  It is appropriate for a school system to decide to include MEA results, including performance levels, on the high school transcript.  However, this could mean that a student with an otherwise strong academic record could be shown to “Partially Meet the Standard” on the MEA.  Whatever the school system determines to be the role of the MEA in the Local Assessment System, there should be notice to students and parents before a student sits for the MEA. 

Hopefully, this update proves helpful as you and staff continue to engage in the development and implementation of a comprehensive local assessment system for your schools.