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INFORMATIONAL LETTER # 121

POLICY CODE:  IG

 

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

 

FROM:            Susan A.Gendron, Commissioner of Education

 

DATE:             May 12, 2004

 

RE:                   Learning Results Review Process

 

 

Key Points Covered in this Informational Letter:

 

  • Statute and rule require review process for Maine Learning Results to begin this year.
  • Review process will include all eight content areas, content standards and performance indicators for each, but not the Guiding Principles.
  • Review process will take 2-3 years and will then require action by the Maine Legislature prior to implementation of any revisions, which will not begin until 2006-07 at the earliest.
  • Any changes to the standards will be phased in over a period of years to ensure fairness to students and to allow districts ample time to make modifications to curriculum, instruction and assessment.
  • A Distinguished Educator and the Maine Learning Results Review Committee will guide review process. 

 

 

Background

Maine law (Title 20-A § 6209 (4)) requires a review of the State of Maine Learning Results, and requires the process to begin this school year. Chapter 127, Section 8, further defines a four-year review cycle for this purpose.  Over the next two to three years the Department will conduct this review, which will encompass both the content standards and performance indicators in all eight content areas of the Learning Results.  The review will not include the Guiding Principles.  As a result of the review, any recommended changes to either content standards or performance indicators will require legislative approval and revisions to Chapter 131, Rules for Learning Results.  As stated in Chapter 127, 8.02, if it is determined that any changes are to be made to the Learning Results, the effective date of these changes will be included in the revised rule and will provide sufficient time for local and state assessments to be adapted and fair notice to be given to students.  A phased-in implementation schedule will allow time for adjustments in curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development.

 

The Learning Results have been in place since 1997, and ongoing review was contemplated from the outset, as noted in the Preface to the document. The Department’s review of the Learning Results will consider our and your experience with the standards to date, research, the assessability of the standards, public commentary, and refinements and changes in content area standards documents from national professional associations.  As stated above, the scope of this review will encompass content standards and performance indicators; the format, structure (which includes the four grade spans) and terminology (content standard, performance indicator, etc.) of the Learning Results document will remain in their present form.  As a result of the review, those elements in any given content area that rise to the surface as being significant may be recommended for revision.  It is anticipated that any recommended revisions resulting from the review process will be presented to the Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, in the context of the rule-making process, prior to full approval by the Legislature.

 

 

Process and Timeline Issues

 

In discussions with the Learning Results Steering Committee over the past several months, members of the committee have expressed the concern that embarking on the review process in the near future runs the risk of raising the anxiety level of teachers, principals, and other educators who are still deeply involved with implementing the current language of the standards.  Given that concern, the Department will make every effort to reassure educators and the public that any changes to the language of the standards will not impact current curriculum, instruction, or assessment work taking place in schools across Maine.  When and if changes are made to the language of the standards—no earlier than the 2006-07 school year— I will recommend strongly that the revisions be phased in over a period of years to ensure that students learning under the current standards will not be held to the new expectations.  I will also recommend that ample time be allowed for revisions to local curriculum and assessment plans.

 

The Department will engage the services of a Distinguished Educator to coordinate and conduct the review of Maine’s Learning Results.  The Distinguished Educator will work with Department staff to plan, design, and implement the activities required to conduct the review process, to yield recommendations for potential revisions to the Learning Results, and to develop a phase-in plan for those changes approved by the Legislature. The review process will begin by September 2004 with two content areas (yet to be determined) of the Learning Results, followed by the review of the remaining six content areas beginning in Spring 2005. The results of the review and recommendations for action will be presented to the Commissioner by December 2005 for rulemaking and presentation to the Legislature in Spring 2006. It is anticipated that a multi-year phase-in plan to implement any revisions to the Learning Results would commence no earlier than the 2006-2007 school year and would begin at the Pre-K–2 grade span of the Learning Results.

 

An oversight process for the entire review will be established and, in addition to the Distinguished Educator, will include a Learning Results Review Process Committee and eight Content Area Advisory Panels.  Working with the Distinguished Educator, these groups will ensure the engagement of relevant stakeholders in the review process.  The Learning Results Steering Committee will receive periodic updates on the process and will ultimately make recommendations to the Commissioner.  With assistance from the Department’s content area specialists, the Content Area Advisory Panels will review the content area standards and performance indicators in a uniform manner, based on a common protocol.  Once any potential revisions are identified, there will be opportunities for review and comment by the field.

 

Though the rulemaking process entails a review of the language of the standards, the Department will be considering other tools and strategies to support more effective implementation of the Learning Results, as well. Current considerations include the following:

 

·        Development of a robust web-based presentation of the standards, including links to national standards documents, instructional tools, and assessments.

·        Inclusion of interdisciplinary connections embedded in each content area.

·        Inclusion of technology integration strategies and instructional supports for each content area.

·        Inclusion of community connections and real world application possibilities for each content area. 

·        Development and posting of strategies for incorporating the Guiding Principles in instruction, assessment, and reporting strategies.

 

This initial set of ideas to strengthen implementation is only for preliminary consideration and discussion.  Please contact either of the Department staff members listed below if you have additional ideas on how the Department can make the Learning Results review process and eventual re-publication more effective.

 

 

Department Contact information:

 

Department of Education Learning Results Review:  don.reutershan@maine.gov

 

Learning Results Steering Committee:  patrick.phillips@maine.gov