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INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 14
POLICY CODE: ILBB
TO: Superintendents of Schools
FROM: Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner
DATE: August 14, 2003
RE: Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) Online
I am pleased to announce that the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) will be administered online to grade 8 students beginning in March 2004. The Department and Measured Progress (contractor for the MEA) have reached agreement on plans to administer MEA Online to grade 8 students utilizing the resources and experience of Maine’s laptop initiative. Beginning with the MEA tests scheduled for administration from March 1 – 12, 2004, grade 8 students will take the tests in reading, writing, mathematics, and science and technology using the laptop computers that Maine provides each grade 8 student. While this is a significant change for both teachers and students, it is consistent with instructional expectations for how students learn and demonstrate what they have learned.
Preliminary meetings were held with advisory committees during the week of August 4, 2003, to begin the process of adapting the software and analyzing the capacity of Maine’s computer architecture and statewide connectivity to deliver the student assessment program. Those involved agree that Maine is uniquely positioned, through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), to successfully implement this program. While computer based administration will support more efficient delivery and administration of the tests, the future benefit will be tests that are more interactive with students’ learning and provide fairer opportunity for students to demonstrate what they know and can do.
Over the next few months the Department, together with Measured Progress, will be acquainting school personnel and the public with the new computer based assessment strategy. In November, Measured Progress will begin testing the system in a selected number of schools that represent the range of school readiness to participate in MEA Online. In December, an expanded pilot test is planned to approximate the actual conditions of the test administration across the state. Statewide training for school personnel will be held in January. Practice tests will be available to schools from January through late February.
While there are a number of design changes in the MEA tests for the 2003 – 2004 school year, students’ experience with the tests will be quite consistent with the past year’s tests. The students will respond to questions that require both selecting a response and developing written responses, as they have in prior years. In mathematics, students will be provided a response booklet to record answers to questions asking them to show their work. In the writing assessment, students will enter and edit the text of their responses directly online; however, grammar and spell check functions will not be available to the student. This will allow scoring of writing to be consistent with the current scoring rubrics that produce scores for both content development and the use of English language conventions.
Students with special needs will continue to be accommodated on the MEA. Interestingly, the accommodations frequently applied involve the use of computers. As our experience with online assessment increases, the concepts of Universal Design will be integrated into test development. This will provide fairer opportunity for students, while reducing the need for teacher time in providing accommodations for students.
Are we ready for the MEA Online? While there is much planning to be completed for the implementation of this new endeavor, Maine schools are the best prepared in the nation to take this step successfully. Measured Progress, contractor for the MEA for the past 18 years, brings its experience with computer based assessment programs for AT&T, as well as the states of Georgia and Utah. Both the Department and Measured Progress are prepared to listen to the needs of schools, and provide the training and the logistical support necessary for success of the program. There is no question, that in this first year, there will be issues and problems to be resolved. Please be assured that we are committed to finding the solutions to those issues and problems, knowing that over time, this new technological approach in statewide assessment will provide a fairer opportunity to students to demonstrate achievement, as well as provide Maine citizens with the most accurate description of our progress in achieving the expectations for higher student performance set forth in Maine’s Learning Results.