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INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 112
POLICY CODE: IKF
TO: Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Curriculum Coordinators, Special Education Directors, and School Principals
FROM: Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner
DATE: April 4, 2005
RE: Proposed Modifications to the Implementation of the System of Learning Results
In January, in Informational Letter #66, I committed the Department to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the implementation of Maine’s system of Learning Results, including a review of Chapter 127. In this letter I outline a series of proposals that will achieve a balanced and measured mid-course adjustment in the implementation of Maine’s long-term educational reforms. These proposals should be reviewed with the following assumptions in mind:
- The basic purposes for educational reform in Maine—to ensure that upon graduation all Maine students are effectively prepared for life, work, and citizenship—are today more compelling than in 1996 when the Learning Results were enacted.
- Learning Results implementation, in many districts, is producing significantly richer and more effective conversations about teaching and learning, which is in turn leading to improved student learning. In these districts the development of the Local Assessment System (LAS) has been integrated into existing, connected systems of curriculum, instruction, professional development, and student academic support.
- Above all, we must be certain that students are not harmed during the development phase of systems to measure achievement of the standards.
- Modifications are being proposed at this time to permit more consistent and integrated systemic reform in all Maine schools and districts. We will seek quality over quantity; we will pace ourselves in the hope of building systems that are truly effective and comparable across Maine. If our goals apply to all students, then we must ensure that all districts are progressing.
- These proposals will undergo extensive review by the Commissioner’s key advisory committees, the Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, and the State Board of Education.
Since its enactment in 2000, Chapter 127 of the Maine Department of Education Regulations has guided the statewide implementation of the Local Assessment System (LAS) and preparations for its use as the basis for awarding high school diplomas beginning in 2007-08. Though Chapter 127 and its attendant documents, the LAS Guide and Considering Consistency, were developed with extensive technical and policy advice, implementation of the guidance, in school administrative units across Maine, has encountered a number of challenges and capacity issues. Based on a variety of indicators, the Department of Education is proposing modifications to Chapter 127, the LAS Guide, Considering Consistency, and other aspects of the system of Learning Results to ensure that further implementation strikes a realistic balance between the need for continuing educational reform and statewide capacity for the complex work this entails.
I am proposing the following modifications to Chapter 127, some of which will require corresponding changes to Maine statute:
- Modify the graduation expectation for 2007-08 through the creation of the “Learning Results Credit” (LRC). For English Language Arts and Mathematics only, school administrative units will administer and collect a reduced number of assessments as defined by an updated version of the LAS Guide in combination with other evidence of student achievement. The LRC, which combines features of the existing credit-based approach with the Local Assessment System basis, will permit all districts across Maine to continue the development of comprehensive standards-based systems and continue to align curriculum, instruction, and assessment with the standards. Over the next few years, data on this approach will be collected and analyzed by the Department of Education to ensure that local systems are developing comparable expectations.
- The “Learning Results Credit” will be used as the basis for meeting standards for diploma purposes in Science, Social Studies, Health/Physical Education beginning in 2009-10 and in Modern and Classical Languages and Visual and Performing Arts beginning in 2010-11.
- Permanently limit LAS student level data for certification purposes to two content areas, English Language Arts and Mathematics, in grades PK-4, but continue school level data in Science, Social Studies, and Health/Physical Education in the 3-4 grade span.
- Limit student level data for certification purposes in grades 5-8 to English Language Arts and Mathematics, but continue school level data in Science, Social Studies, and Health/Physical Education.
- Clarify where aspects of the rule apply only to the “certification subset” of the assessments in the Local Assessment System.
- Require the Department to develop guidelines and procedures for State validation of school administrative unit LAS and Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP).
- Broaden the basis for the Department to provide technical assistance to school administration units for LAS and CEP development. This will necessitate significant re-alignment of Department human and fiscal resources to maximize capacity for providing assistance to local districts. The Department will also redouble efforts to partner with statewide and regional professional development and technical assistance service providers to mobilize all available resources in support of effective implementation.
- Align the language in Section 8 (Review Cycle for the System of Learning Results) to current plans for the review.
LAS Guide and Considering Consistency:
The above modifications to Chapter 127 will necessitate significant changes to the LAS Guide which will be conducted following adoption of the rule. An updated version of the LAS Guide, as well as changes to Considering Consistency, will then be disseminated to local districts. LAS Guide changes will include:
- Adding specific guidance on school level data;
- Defining the assessment evidence necessary for the Learning Results Credit;
- Modifying the guidance on the minimum number of assessments per grade span and the level of technical rigor associated with each of the grade spans; and
- Clarifying a number of aspects of the current wording in the document that have resulted in frequent questions to the Department.
Maine Educational Assessment and Other Proposed Modifications:
In addition to the above modifications to Chapter 127 and related documents, the Department will also be engaged in a broader review of other aspects of the implementation of the system of Learning Results including:
- Evaluating a redesign the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) to measure and report progress on a smaller subset of performance indicators to provide greater predictability and focus for teachers and students.
- Evaluating strategies for using the MEA in conjunction with the Local Assessment System evidence to measure a student’s achievement of the Learning Results.
- Monitoring emerging federal accountability requirements, particularly at the high school level, to ensure that Maine’s overall testing program avoids duplication.
- Conducting a broad-based and comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the implementation of Maine’s Learning Results, involving all the key advisory committees (Policy and Technical Advisory Committees, the Learning Results Steering Committee, the State Board of Education, Education Committee leadership, and other stakeholder groups) for the purpose of identifying further actions and implementation supports to address current challenges and capacity issues, to be completed by August 1, 2005.
- Clarifying that decisions about high school diplomas for students with disabilities will be informed more strongly by a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
In the coming weeks, these proposals will be reviewed with the Education Committee and the State Board of Education. In the interim, the Department will make every effort to respond to phone and email inquiries to clarify the proposed modifications and their implications, and to develop communications tools to assist local school officials in their efforts to keep students, parents, and educators informed.
I wish to thank all those who have communicated with the Department during this first phase of the evaluation. We have heard from both those who caution us to not lose momentum and those who need relief, and I believe that both perspectives have been offered with sincerity and with the best hopes for our students in mind. As we seek to balance the urgent need for improved results with the necessity to work within our capacity, I remain optimistic about Maine’s vision for educational reform. My hope is that these proposed modifications, once consensus if reached on their merits, will permit us to refocus our energies on improving learning for all Maine students.