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To:      Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Curriculum Coordinators, and School Principals

From:   Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner of Education

Date:    August 29, 2003

Re:       Information on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Identification of Continuous Improvement Priority Schools (CIPS) 

I am pleased to provide in this electronic Informational Letter an active web link to an “AYP Fact Sheet” designed to help local school officials understand and more effectively communicate about the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Maine’s accountability plan under the federal law (Section 1116, Title I, Elementary and Secondary Education Act).  The fact sheet is posted in PDF format to allow easy printing at the local level for use with school boards, administrative teams, and the public.  It is the first of several new communication tools that will be posted on the DOE web site in the coming weeks. 

               MDOE, NCLBA, Understanding Adequate Yearly Progress Fact Sheet - 08/29/2003

Over the next few weeks, the Department will publicize additional information about the school identification process under the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) section of NCLB.  In an effort to remind us all of the importance of on-going improvement for all schools, the Department will be referring to schools identified for the most intensive level of support (schools that have not made AYP for two or more consecutive years) as “Continuous Improvement Priority Schools” (CIPS).  Schools that do not make AYP for the first time under the new federal guidelines (for test participation rate, whole or sub-group performance, or other Maine indicators described below) will be listed as “AYP Monitor Status Schools.”  

To coincide with the publication of the list of CIPS, Maine DOE will also develop public statements and media events to reiterate our key beliefs about AYP:

·        Maine shares certain basic beliefs implicit in NCLB:  Setting high standards for all Maine students is the right thing to do.  We also believe that sub-group performance should be monitored carefully as an indicator of how effective our schools are.

·        Maine’s approach to NCLB and AYP is one of shared accountability.  To help emphasize this point, our press conference announcing this year’s schools will include key state and federal political leaders and other stakeholders in our educational system.

·        Accountability structures must be balanced with support.  Our press conference will also include an overview of the Maine Department of Education plan for providing support to identified schools, and a re-affirmation of our commitment to dedicating statewide resources and assistance to support improvement.

·        Continuous improvement must be a critical component of the culture of all Maine schools.  If we are to meet the high expectations for learning embodied in the Learning Results, we must recognize, celebrate, and learn from promising practices that result in more students performing at the Meets and Exceeds performance levels on local assessments and the MEA.

·        Maine will recognize both consistently strong performance and improvement.  NCLB requires states to develop programs of rewards as well as sanctions.  On an annual basis, the Commissioner’s Office of the Maine Department of Education will recognize two groups of schools:  those with perennial strong performance on the MEA, and schools that show steady improvement over time.   

Maine’s AYP Formula Details:

As noted in the Fact Sheet linked to this Informational Letter, NCLB guidelines require all states to develop achievement starting points this year based on a standard formula in the federal law.  This will eventually result in a group of identified schools that will look fundamentally different from previous years.  Beginning this year, NCLB requires that AYP calculations must be based on test scores at three grade levels (4, 8, and 11), and applied to the whole testing group and each one of seven identified groups and sub-groups.  Furthermore, schools must include a minimum of 95% of students continuously enrolled after October 1 in AYP testing.  NCLB also requires states to have one additional indicator (Maine has opted to use average daily attendance in the elementary grades, and NCLB requires graduation rates for high schools) for AYP accountability purposes.  All together, when fully implemented, NCLB will provide over 200 ways for K-12 districts to not make AYP.   

To include all schools in the accountability system, states must also determine how schools that do not include grades (currently 4, 8, and 11) where testing is conducted for AYP.  In most instances in Maine, this will involve at present K-2 or K-3 schools.  The Maine plan includes a provision to “back map” performance from schools where students are tested.  For example, if several K-2 primary schools feed into a larger 3-6 elementary school, which does not make AYP, each of the sending schools would also be identified.  

The Maine Department of Education recognizes the need for making fair and reliable decisions about adequate yearly progress as the AYP formulas are applied.  One of the key variables affecting reliability is the number of students or “n-size.”  For participation rates, the minimum “n size” for the test is 41.  Schools or groups with 40 or fewer students in a year will be reported as “undetermined” for participation.  For performance, the “n size” is 20 and at least two years of student performance data are used.  In addition, statistical confidence intervals are used in performance determinations to allow for the variability in student populations from year to year.   This, however, does not mean that small schools are not held accountable.  Our NCLB accountability plan includes a provision for the Maine Department of Education to review MEA scores and other indicators to ensure that all Maine schools are included in the accountability system.  The Maine Department of Education will provide local superintendents with the data used to calculate AYP and school status to help inform any corrective actions that would be appropriate to undertake this year. 

Identification and Notification of Continuous Improvement Priority Schools:

            The basis for AYP this year will be the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) results for Reading and Mathematics.  NCLB requires states to notify identified schools of their AYP status prior to the start of the next school year so schools can comply with the parent notification of choice requirements under NCLB.  To meet this requirement, Maine has agreed to notify Continuous Improvement Priority Schools (CIPS) as soon as data are available for each content area, reading in the week of August 25 and math in the week of September 15.  We will, however, wait until both sets of data are complete—and districts have had the customary two-week review period—to make a formal public announcement of statewide AYP status with the resulting complete list of identified schools. 

The Maine Department of Education will also schedule an ATM session to provide a more interactive opportunity for local administrators to seek clarification about all aspects of the AYP process.  We will alert local superintendents through a follow-up informational letter about the dates and times for AYP announcements and other key events as they become clear.    

National Context for NCLB:

            Maine’s list of CIP schools (two or more years of not making AYP) will include roughly the same number of schools as previous years.  However, beginning next year and beyond, the number of identified schools in Maine is certain to increase.  It should be noted that states around the country that have lowered their performance standards have not succeeded in minimizing the number of identified schools.  Instead, by setting the bar low, the percentage of students reaching proficiency is increased, thereby making it more difficult for all subgroups to achieve the starting points.

            All states are assessing the short-and long-term impacts of the new federal AYP framework.  With so many ways to fail to meet AYP built into the law, it is all but certain that the number of schools identified nationwide will increase dramatically over time.  In Congress, a number of pieces of legislation have been introduced to address both funding and accountability issues with the current law.  Many members of the House and Senate alike are raising strong objections to the lack of adequate resources that states will need to bring about the performance improvements required by the law.  Still others are attempting to alter or limit the frameworks of sanctions contained in the law in its present form.  In the meantime, states are struggling to adjust their processes for identifying and supporting identified schools, and developing communication tools to help school officials and the public to understand the changes. 

Leading in an Age of Accountability:

Our intent in Maine is to address all aspects of NCLB in a way that reflects our commitment to shared accountability, continuous improvement, and adequacy of support.  The new federal requirements will result in significant changes to Maine’s accountability structures—particularly as the achievement targets become more aggressive after the first few years of NCLB implementation.  However, I am committed to finding solutions to all potential problems through consultation and collaboration with the many dedicated citizens who have helped Maine become a national educational leader.  Maine Department of Education staff and I will also continue to work closely with our Congressional delegation to identify and respond to aspects of the federal law that have critical state-level implications.  

            Many of you may face difficult questions from staff, parents, and community members who are concerned about the demands for accountability of Maine’s Learning Results and No Child Left Behind.  It is important that we continue to develop school and district cultures characterized by our own sense of accountability to our students.  In the end, external accountability structures will not lead to improved student achievement unless we take ownership of the mission of higher expectations for each Maine student.  We face daunting challenges this year, but our strength is in our shared vision and commitment to finding our way together.  I wish each of you a successful beginning to the new school year!

For additional assistance please contact Jacqueline Soychak at 207-624-6730.