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To:       Superintendents, Guidance Counselors, High School Principals, and Curriculum Coordinators


From:   Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner


Date:    April 29, 2004


Re:       Initiative to Provide All Maine Tenth Graders with the PSAT



            As part of the statewide effort to encourage all high school graduates in Maine to pursue post-secondary education, I am announcing that the State will provide for all 10th graders in Maine’s publicly supported high schools to take the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall of 2004.  For all students in Maine to have equitable access to a college education, they must have equitable access to the pre-requisites to entering post-secondary education. 


In a partnership with the College Board, the Maine Department of Education will provide the students with the PSAT on Wednesday, October 13, 2004.  By administering the test on Wednesday all students will be able to take it without the concerns of transportation and work obligations that effect the customary Saturday administration. 


This will enable all participating students to receive important information for themselves and their families, and will provide schools with enhanced information to support student academic advising, early college planning, and teacher professional development.

If we believe all students can achieve at higher levels of performance and learning, and that all of our students can be college-ready, then they, too, must believe that they can achieve and participate in college preparation experiences such as the PSAT.  We must show them that we believe that they can go on to post-secondary education.

Maine’s project will be conducted in close cooperation with the College Board.  President of the College Board and former Governor of West Virginia Gaston Caperton has stated his commitment to the partnership: “The College Board looks forward to an enduring partnership with the state of Maine that will benefit students, counselors, teachers, and administrators in connecting students to college success and opportunity with a commitment to excellence and equity.”

            Maine has one of the lowest college-going rates of high school graduates in the country while having one of the highest high school graduation rates.  Although this discrepancy can be attributed to several factors, the encouragement of students from their teachers and counselors can make a difference. In a state where 75% of jobs now require a post-secondary education, we must provide our students with access to that education.  A frequently stated concern about providing the PSAT to all 10th graders is the effect on self-esteem if students do not do well on the test or the effect on the school if the overall scores for the school decrease.  To help address this concern, the MELMAC Foundation funded PSAT participation in several high schools last year and one of the project requirements was that the schools test all the 10th or 11th graders.  The early results of the project are very promising.


            Taking the PSAT in the 10th grade provides students and educators with valuable information.  Students who take the PSAT in the sophomore or junior year in Maine score higher on the SAT than the students who take the PSAT as juniors or not at all. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Senior Year SAT I

PSAT as a Junior only                                       V- 501      M – 500

PSAT as Sophomore and Junior or younger       V- 563      M – 565

Never took the PSAT                                        V- 465      M – 462

(V = verbal; M = mathematics)


In addition, students receive a report that shows them their correct answers and the ones they missed, along with guidance for skills development in identified areas that are aligned with Maine’s Learning Results.  Thus, students and their teachers can target content areas tied to the Learning Results that need attention more than one year prior to the 11th grade MEAs; teachers also can see areas across the school to target areas for instruction.

Currently, the PSAT is given to all 10th graders in a number of states, such as Florida, Indiana, and Georgia, as well as in growing numbers of school districts throughout the nation.  In 2003, Maine ranked lower than the New England region as a whole, as well as nationally, in the number of 10th graders who take the PSAT.  

I believe that this partnership will raise the aspirations of all our students to pursue a college education and will provide valuable information to the students, teachers, and parents on the strengths and areas on which to improve to successfully meet the Learning Results.   


The Department’s commitment to equity for all students in Maine is supported by many initiatives that are being coordinated to ensure a seamless effort to prepare Maine’s students for post-secondary education and a quality of life that will reduce the outward migration of Maine’s youth.  The following organizations/programs are working together to ensure all students have equal access to a postsecondary education:


·        The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI-laptops):  The MLTI’s mission of providing equitable access to learning through the laptops will provide access to more students to advanced content and will bring college guidance tools and rigorous content to prepare students for Advanced Placement courses.

·        Advanced Placement Incentive Program: Through a federal grant, low-income schools and students may access funds and activities that will increase the participation of low-income—many of whom are first generation college prospects—in Advanced Placement (AP) preparation and courses.  Fees for the AP exams are also paid in total for students meeting the income criteria.   Low-income student participation in AP exams has doubled in the past 3 years.


·        Compact for Higher Education:  The Compact holds a vision of higher education as a fundamental right and responsibility of all Maine people. The Compact exists to promote educational opportunities so that Maine people will be among the best educated in America.  The Compact is a joint initiative of the Maine Development Foundation (MDF) and the Maine Community Foundation.


·        Maine’s designation of its former Technical Colleges as Community Colleges, with a broader purpose of providing citizens with the first two years of traditional college course work, will enable more students to access a college education close to where they live and then go on to a four-year institution, or prepare them to enter the first year of studies at four-year institutions. 


·        MELMAC:  This program provides grants and scholarships to schools, administrators and students to assist in improving programs.  Last year the MELMAC Foundation funded schools that, in turn, had all 10th or 11th graders take the PSAT.  Contact Wendy Ault, 622-3053.


·        The Mitchell Institute:  Through a grant from the Gates Foundation, grants are provided to schools to support implementation of recommendations from Promising Futures: A Call to Improve Learning for Maine's Secondary Students, the report published by the Maine Commission on Secondary Education. The goal is to create environments for personalized learning for all Maine students, and to prepare all students for success in college, the workforce, and their communities. To accomplish this goal and to provide support for strengthening all public high schools in Maine, the Great Maine Schools Project has been implemented at the Mitchell Institute.  The Mitchell Institute also recognizes students who show great potential, and for whom they believe they can make a difference, by awarding annual scholarships to institutions of higher education.  Contact Colleen Quint, 773-7700.


·        Center for Inquiry on Secondary Education (CISE): CISE oversees the grants funded with federal funds provided to secondary schools to implement the recommendations of Maine’s landmark publication on secondary education, Promising Futures.  Contact Norm Higgins, 564-7347.


These combined efforts and programs demonstrate the commitment of the Governor, the Commissioner and the people of Maine to meeting the needs of its students and to ensuring equity in education, wherever our students live.  Please join me in this effort.