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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools (Please forward to Asst. Superintendents, Curriculum Coordinators, School Principals, Guidance Directors, and Special Education Directors)


FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner


DATE:             May 12, 2004


RE:                   Using the MEA in the Local Assessment System


Key Points Covered in this Informational Letter:


  • Policy Advisory Committee has recommended a specific method for using Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) scores in the Local Assessment System (LAS).
  • Including MEA scores along with other local measures should help students participate in the MEA with greater desire to do well.
  • Since the MEA is a one-time, on-demand test with no current replacement, it is recommended that the test score be used in the certification decision only if it helps a student’s overall achievement record.
  • In order to achieve the proper balance of purposes, PAC recommends that, if a district chooses to use the MEA for decisions about student certification, the MEA score count no less than 15% and no more than 20% of the overall LAS body of evidence.




One of the most important tasks assigned to the Policy Advisory Committee this year has been evaluating the potential use of the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) in the Local Assessment System (LAS) and developing both broad policy recommendations on its use and specific suggestions on the details of how a student’s MEA scores would be added to the “certification set” of local assessments.  PAC has engaged in spirited and insightful discussions of the policy and detail-level questions and has submitted a recommendation to me, which I have endorsed.  The purpose of this informational letter is to outline the rationale recommended approach for using the MEA in the LAS.  In addition, the rationale and recommended approach are supported by a “white paper” replete with examples of how the recommendation plays out across different types of student profiles (See link below).


Maine law (Title 2-A, Section 6201) establishes the broad purposes for a system of state and local assessments:  “There is a need for assessment information at both the state and local level to measure progress and ensure accountability regarding the system of learning results, which must be accomplished through a comprehensive system of local and state assessments, involving multiple measures to determine what each student knows and is about to demonstrate regarding the standards of the system of learning results.”  Section 6201 (6) further states, “….The statewide assessment program [MEA] may not be the only criteria for judging student performance.”  Chapter 127 Section 4.02 (C)(4) states, “The role of the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) in the local assessment system shall be explicitly stated.  Neither the MEA nor a commercially produced test may be the only measure of student achievement.”


 The Chapter 127 statement suggests that the final decision on whether and how the MEA will be used in the Local Assessment System is a local one. 


Rationale for Including the MEA


The purpose of the certification set of the LAS is to produce valid and reliable decisions about whether students meet standards for content areas of the Maine Learning Results.  In addition to locally developed assessments or those from MAP or LAD, all students have the opportunity to demonstrate achievement in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, and science on the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA).  Students who meet or exceed standards on the MEA demonstrate a high level of achievement and it makes sense that performance on the MEA should be able to serve as a factor in making certification decisions.


The inclusion of the MEA potentially contributes to the validity of the final certification decisions for students and the validity of the MEA as a measure of school programs.  The inclusion of the MEA provides an additional measure (and type of measure) of student achievement on which to base the certification decision.  If students believe the MEA “counts” for them, they may take it more seriously, resulting in performances that more closely match their actual achievement levels.  This increases the value of the MEA as a measure of student achievement and increases the validity and reliability of the test for use in making decisions about schools for purposes of state and federal accountability.


Recommended Approach for Using the MEA in the LAS


Consequently, it is recommended that if a student meets standards or exceeds standards on the MEA, that performance should be included to add value to her or his record of achievement. Although an SAU may elect to use the MEA for all students, it is suggested that they only use the score if it benefits the student.  The MEA is a one-time, on-demand test.  A student may have a “bad day” or may be absent for a section of the test.  Currently, a replacement is not available for the MEA.  The lack of replacement was among the most difficult issues for the advisory committee members, as they weighed the merits of increasing the motivational factors against the potential that MEA scores might in many instances hurt a student’s chances of accumulating sufficient evidence that he or she has met the standards.  Thus, PAC recommended that MEA scores only be used for an individual student if they benefit the student.  In the end, Maine law and rule, as noted above, make it clear that local districts have the authority to “explicitly state the role of the MEA,” leaving open the possibility that districts might opt to include MEA scores for all students.


The MEA should be used for student certification decisions in a way that fits with the certification portion of the local assessment system (LAS).  Instead of being designed to measure achievement at the individual performance indicator level, the MEA is designed to measure achievement at the content area level, or in the case of English language arts at the cluster level in reading and writing.  Therefore, the MEA should be added to the LAS at a level consistent with the purpose and design of the MEA:  at the content area level in mathematics and science, and the content cluster level in English language arts.


Another important aspect of the recommendation has to do with the relative weight of the MEA in comparison to locally administered assessments.  In order to provide sufficient motivation for students to take the test seriously, PAC recommends that the MEA have enough importance to have a real effect on a student’s likelihood of meeting the standards.  The MEA should not, however, count enough to “trump” the LAS.  Explorations by staff at the Department and the Policy Advisory and Technical Advisory Committees led to the recommendation that the MEA should count no less than 15% and no more than 20% of the value of the LAS and MEA combined.


A variety of scenarios on how the MEA scores might impact the student’s certification set are developed in an attached “white paper” (see link below) authored by Ted Coladarci, chair of the Technical Advisory Committee, and Tad Johnston, Department mathematics specialist and Washington County Regional Educational Representative.  Members of the Policy Advisory Committee found that the role of the MEA in the LAS could best be understood through these case studies or examples, and I encourage you to explore these with administrators, board members, and teachers as you prepare to reach a decision on this issue.


Time for deeper exploration of this topic will be provided at the Annual Commissioner’s Superintendents Conference in June and at regional sessions for Curriculum Coordinators this summer.



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