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TO:             Superintendents, Principals, and Curriculum Coordinators


FROM:        Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner


DATE:         May 2, 2003


RE:              Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) for the 2003-04 School Year



I wish to take this opportunity to alert you to significant modifications in the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) program for the 2003 – 2004 school year. The increased focus on individual student and school accountability stemming from Chapter 127 implementation requirements of Maine’s Learning Results and the new federal No Child Left Behind Act have led to the following MEA program design modifications:


q      A more focused approach, assessing only English language arts (reading and writing), mathematics, and science and technology at grades 4, 8, and 11;

q      A new test design with increased numbers of items contributing to student and school scores, which will allow improved reliability and increased reporting of sub-scores for individual students for these content areas.

q      A single test administration schedule during a two-week period beginning March 1, 2004.


 Please understand that many details of the changes are still in the preliminary stages of development, so I am not yet able to convey to you all aspects of the plan. However, I do expect to complete and implement these MEA modifications for the next school year.  The following sections of this Information Letter amplify the rationale and characteristics of the revised MEA program.


MEA Scope 


To align the MEA with the implementation requirements of Maine’s Learning Results and the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the MEA is being modified to focus on the following content areas at grades 4, 8, and 11:

q      English Language Arts (reading and writing)

q      Mathematics

q      Science and Technology


Social Studies, Health Education, and the Visual and Performing Arts assessments will no longer be part of the annual MEA testing schedule.  Maine has successful experience in student assessment in these areas and intends to utilize this experience and resources to support the development of effective local assessments in these content areas.  I wish to emphasize that the Department’s assessment models, guidance, and tools for development of local assessment systems will clearly convey the importance of these content areas as an integral part of Maine’s high expectations for all students.


MEA Test Design Modifications


These test design modifications will provide greater focus on performance results for individual students, while retaining the ability to use MEA data for program evaluation.  By increasing the number of test items that comprise student and school scores, reliability coefficients should be improved to levels recommended by the Technical Advisory Committee.


The scoring of all writing responses will become the responsibility of Measured Progress scorers.  This is necessary to meet new No Child Left Behind reporting deadlines. I wish to acknowledge the value of Maine teachers scoring writing; as a result of the nearly twenty-year effort student writing has significantly improved.  A secondary benefit of the effort is the growing number of local writing assessments which are carrying the benefits of rubric-based scoring to additional teachers and students. Given our experience in scoring writing, it is our intent to expand Department professional development scoring opportunities to build greater proficiency in scoring local assessments across all content areas.


Test Administration and Reporting


The MEA will return to a single test administration period, which is scheduled for a two-week period beginning March 1, 2004.  Measured Progress, together with Department staff, is reviewing all test administration protocols to reduce the time it takes to return reports to schools.  This is in part a response to the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, but should also be useful to schools in using results more effectively.  In the first year of these modifications, an early July reporting target is being set.


I realize these design modifications represent an ambitious updating of the Maine Educational Assessment to respond to the emerging focus on the assessment of individual students.  This effort, while responding to increased assessment requirements, is also reducing the burden of testing at grades 4, 8, and 11.  While delaying the implementation of these design changes for a year was considered, the need to have the program in place took precedence. Please keep in mind that a review of the MEA performance standards is also underway with recommendations for any revisions expected in the fall of this year.

I will look forward to working with you to successfully implement the most effective state and local assessment programs possible.