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INFORMATIONAL LETTER:  88

 

POLICY CODE:  CGD

 

 

TO:                  Superintendents, Principals, and Curriculum Coordinators

 

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

 

DATE:             June 10, 2003

 

RE:                   No Child Left Behind Plan Approval Announcement

 

 

At approximately 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 10, 2003, an announcement is expected by Secretary of Education Rod Paige and other government officials regarding the approval of a large number—perhaps all remaining—state No Child Left Behind (NCLB) plans.  Maine’s plan will be among those announced as approved, according to U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) staff in a phone conversation during the day on Monday, June 9, 2003. 

 

Our revised Accountability Plan was submitted with final revisions on Friday, June 6, 2003. The significant changes to our original January 31, 2003 submission were based on feedback from our Peer Review on February 27, 2003, subsequent telephone conferences with USDOE staff, as well as feedback from Maine educators and concerned citizens.  The reworking of our plan was based on a firm commitment to protect the good work that is taking place in Maine schools and to develop a No Child Left Behind Plan that is well suited to the nature of the schools and districts in our State. As part of our review, we dissected the Accountability Plans of states that have been approved, especially for those states similar to ours. We consulted with a diverse group of Maine educators on May 23, 2003. We also reviewed our draft plan with the Commissioner’s Technical Advisory Committee, Policy Advisory Committee, and the Maine Learning Results Steering Committee over a two-day span on June 2 and 3, 2003. We also took advantage of the opportunity to consult with a technical expert provided by the Council of Chief State School Officers to refine our initial ideas.

 

Throughout this extensive review, our target has been to create the best possible plan for Maine schools. We believe we have succeeded in that endeavor. Our Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) formula follows federal law but takes advantage of confidence intervals and safe harbor provisions to mitigate the impact of the formula required by federal law.  Our revised plan also uses the “stair step approach” for annual improvement targets used by several other states, which also helps to keep the number of Priority Schools manageable in the early years.  In this way we believe that we will be able to identify the schools that truly need to improve and keep that number at a manageable level.   The federal law requires us to identify Priority Schools prior to the start of each school year.  To meet this goal, for this year the Department of Education will be identifying schools in a two step process:  schools that have not made AYP based on MEA Reading scores will be announced in July, 2003; schools not making AYP due to Math scores will be announced shortly after the MEA results are released in September, 2003.  In subsequent years—due to the recent reworking of the MEA—this two-step process will not be necessary.

 

Maine’s standards are among the most rigorous of all state standards.  While it has been proposed that lowering our standards might help protect us from NCLB, we have chosen not to do so.  Instead, we have maximized our use of acceptable statistical analyses to meet the spirit of NCLB, but in a way that matches the reality in Maine schools.  We are meeting federal law without compromising our values and our beliefs about teaching and learning. We thank all of you for your comments, suggestions, and ideas expressed in various ways to help identify strategies to protect Maine schools. We will continue to learn and adjust accordingly.

 

One aspect of the plan has been left open for amendment:  the precise method we will use to assess the required Mathematics and Reading Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7.  The federal government is not concerned with the methodology used to gather AYP data, just that the method is valid, reliable, and comparable.  Our original submission stated that we would use our Local Assessment Systems to produce this data; however, the Department has conducted extensive discussions with a number of stakeholder groups and advisory committees to review the possible impacts of the AYP accountability requirements on our still-maturing Local Assessment Systems.  A policy decision on this matter will be made in the very near future and will be addressed in greater detail in a subsequent communication.