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TO:           Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Curriculum Coordinators, Principals, Guidance Directors, and Special Education Directors

FROM:    Susan A. Gendron

DATE:     August 30, 2005

RE:          Maine Educational Assessment for Grades 3 – 8


Key Points Covered in this Informational Letter:

Grades 3 – 8 MEA Design

The grade 3-8 MEA design provides for continuity, clarity, and balanced student engagement time across the grades. The outcome of the change will be State level tests with clearer performance expectations and a more balanced approach to the amount of student engagement time.

The two-year design implementation has the following characteristics:

MEA Testing Window

All grade level assessments, including make-ups, will be administered between March 6th and 24th, 2006, in accordance with MEA Administration Guidelines.   An effort is being made to reduce the burden on staff to provide accommodations for students with special needs.   This is being accomplished by both reducing the number of test forms used and distributing those forms across schools.   The goal is to provide the fairest opportunity for all students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.         

MEA Online

The computer-based assessment at grade 8 (MEA Online) will again be offered on a voluntary basis.   Training and practice will be available in the fall.   Continued improvements, coupled with MEDMS student information availability, will provide for easier use of the system.   More information about participation in the computer based assessment program will be sent at a later date.

Performance Standard Setting

The MEA performance standards for grades 4, 8, and 11 that were set in 1998-99 have remained unchanged since that time. The Department is planning to set new performance standards for grades 3 – 8 in May 2006, applying two performance standard strategies.   The Contrasting Groups method will query teachers at the time of testing about the performance of students in relation to descriptions of quality. A second method, the Modified Bookmark approach, will engage panels of educators and the public in linking student performance to quality descriptors at the item level.   The new standards will reflect an approach that moderates the performance standards vertically across all grades tested.   This will enable us to see more clearly the progress of all students and subgroups of students.   The new standards, except for writing, will be applied to the results beginning with 2005-06.

Grade 11 Assessment

The Department is in the final stages of considering the use of the College Board SAT exams in critical reading, writing, and mathematics as Maine’s secondary school assessment program.   The new program, if adopted, will replace the MEA assessment beginning with the 2005-06 school year.   An Informational Letter will be sent within the next several weeks describing the adoption decision and implementation information.


More information about the assessment design for grades 3 - 8 will be presented in the fall during regional workshops.   The dates for the workshops will be announced shortly.   The new assessment design reflects an evolutionary change in our State assessment approach consistent with the implementation of Learning Results.   I am confident that you will find that the program changes bring a new clarity to our performance expectations while respecting the value of student engagement in assessment within the instructional program.