Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help









To:       Superintendents, Special Education Directors, High School Principals and Guidance Counselors


From:    Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner


Date:     December 18, 2003


Re:        Assessment and Graduation Implications for Special Education Students



            One of the most frequently asked questions about Maine’s Learning Results concerns the application of the standards to special education students.  This general topic has, of course, taken on new urgency since the adoption in 2002 of Chapter 127 of the Maine Department of Education Regulations, which establishes the specific framework and timelines for student diplomas, and since the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which measures and reports school status on the basis of academic performance for all students and for sub-groups—including special education students—as well.  At the heart of Maine Learning Results is the belief that high academic standards are for all students.  This also appears to be a fundamental philosophical foundation of NCLB.  However, as the accountability mechanisms of the Learning Results and NCLB have become clearer, many educators, parents, policymakers, and citizens have begun to ask whether both accountability structures should include provisions to modify expectations for special education students.


Title 20-A, Section 6202-A(3and 4) establishes the intent of the Maine Legislature with respect to graduation expectations for all students.  Further, Section 7.02, Subsection A(2) of Chapter 127—the major substantive rule reviewed and approved by the Maine Legislature—states, “Beginning with the 2006-07 school year, diplomas may be awarded only to students who have met the content standards of the system of Learning Results as determined by the local assessment system….”  Though other statutory and regulatory provisions suggest that a special education student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) should be considered in developing a program of instruction and assessments, the Title 20-A and Chapter 127 language must, at this time, be seen as the most recent and defining expression of the intent of the Maine Legislature.  In other words, the standards for student diplomas of Maine’s Learning Results apply to all students. 


Thus, while a student’s IEP can be used to personalize instructional strategies, provide for supportive services, and adapt assessments in an effort to determine how a student will demonstrate whether he or she has met the standards, it should not be used to address whether a student is expected to meet the standards.


Since its inception, the standards-based reform of Maine schools embodied in Maine’s Learning Results has embraced the “all student” philosophy.  While this belief calls for some new ways of doing business and new ways of evaluating traditional school structures, it is embraced in the belief that it is the best way to ensure that every student is given the most complete opportunity to learn, demonstrate, and achieve proficiency of Maine’s high standards.


Current implementation and accountability structures for both the Learning Results and NCLB are defined in statute and rule.  Thus, any reconsideration or modification of the conclusion that all students should be held to the same standards must originate from either the State Legislature or Congress, or both.  As States have begun implementing their AYP plans for the first time this school year, numerous proposed amendments to NCLB have begun to surface.  Also, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), up for reauthorization this year, has been under review for the better part of a year.  At this writing, it is not clear whether any changes in IDEA or possible amendments to NCLB itself would implicate current NCLB accountability structures.  The Maine Department of Education will provide additional guidance in the form of an Informational Letter as the implications of the reauthorization of IDEA and/or changes to NCLB become clear.


The following web resources are provided to assist local educators in planning for instruction and assessment of special education students:


Department of Education Special Services home page has many valuable links to information and organizations including State and Federal regulations:


The Guide to Special Education in Maine: A Team Approach

A wonderful document with downloadable examples of letters, forms and plans.

Development funded by the Department of Education

The PET Process:


The Individual Education Plan:


Personalized Alternate Assessment (PAAP)


IEP Workshops:


Frequently Asked Questions produced by the Maine Parents Federation:


Comprehensive Assessment System:

soon to be:


Legislative Update:  National Association of State Directors of Special Education:


Technology Resources:

MaineCITE - Consumer Information and Technology Exchange