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INFORMATIONAL LETTER NO. 25
POLICY CODE: ILBB
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:
- Implementation of the new Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) design for grades 3 – 8 to measure Learning Results and meet No Child Left BehindAct accountability requirements
- 2005-06 transition: shorter test length at grades 4 and 8 and more balanced student engagement time across grades
- 2005-06 writing field test for grades 5 and 8
- 2006-07 assessment of enhanced Grade Level Expectations (GLEs)
- The dates for the grades 3 – 8 MEA administration are March 6 – 24, 2006
- Voluntary participation in computer based assessment (MEA Online) for grade 8
- Performance standard setting to impact 2005-06 MEA results for grades 3 - 8
- New secondary school assessment strategy under consideration
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:
- The 2005-06 school year will begin the implementation by adjusting the length of the tests to balance the testing burden across grades 3 - 8 and significantly reduce total test length at grades 4 and 8. Test content, however, will continue to be based on MaineLearning Results content standards and performance indicators at grades 4 and 8, and on the original grade level expectations in reading and mathematics at grades 3, 5, 6, and 7. The assessment will also contain field test items of the enhanced GLEs (see Informational Letter #10 dated August 11, 2005).
- Grade 3 assessments will consist of 46 score points in reading and 48 points in mathematics, with a mix of selected response and student constructed response items (65/35% by score point in reading and 67/33% in mathematics). The grade 3 test booklets will include an integrated student response format.
- Grades 4 and 5 assessments in reading and mathematics will have 48 score points with a mix of selected response and student constructed response items (58/42% by score point in grade 4 reading and 67/33% in grades 4 and 5 mathematics and grade 5 reading). A separate student response booklet will be utilized at grades 4 and 5.
- Grade 4 will also include a science & technology assessment with 48 score points with the same mix of item types as mathematics.
- Writing assessment will move from grade 4 to grade 5 beginning this school year and will consist of a field test of one focused prompt in the narrative mode. This change in strategy for assessment of writing is consistent with the focusing of the MEA and reducing the student engagement time. The new design calls for approximately 70 minutes of student engagement time compared to 2 hours and 10 minutes in the old design. Further, the movement of the writing assessment to grade 5 helps to balance the testing burden across grades. Given the significance of this change in strategy, it is necessary to take a year to field test the new materials before the writing assessment becomes operational. The field tested prompts will be benchmarked and used over the next five years. As a consequence, no school or student data will be reported 2005-06. More information about the writing field test will be forthcoming.
- Grades 6, 7, and 8 assessments in reading and mathematics will have 56 score points with a mix of selected response and student constructed response items (71/29% in reading at grades 6 and 7, and 57/43% by score point in grades 7 and 8 mathematics and grade 8 reading). A separate student response booklet will be used, except for most of the voluntary computer-based assessment (MEA Online) at grade 8.
- The grade 8 assessment will also include a science & technology assessment with 56 score points in the same mix of item types as mathematics.
- The grade 8 writing assessment will consist of one focused prompt in the persuasive/argumentative mode. The details of the implementation of the new writing assessment are the same as those for grade 5 described above.
- Beginning in school year 2006-07,the enhanced grade level expectations (GLEs) will be assessed for all grades 3 – 8 in reading and mathematics and grades 4 and 8 in science & technology. The 2006-07 reading, math, and science & technology GLEs may be viewed by accessing http://www.maine.gov/education/lsalt/gles.htm. Please keep in mind that the GLEs are derived from focused Learning Results performance indicators, and do not represent new content. The goal is to present our expectations for performance in a clear and focused way.
- The test length and mix of item types will be relatively unchanged from 2005-06, with the exception of an increased percentage (43%) of constructed response items at grades 6 and 7 in reading.
- The writing assessments for grades 5 and 8 will be implemented. The students will be responding to prompts that focus on the narrative mode of writing at grade 5 and the persuasive/argumentative mode at grade 8. More information about the writing assessment will be forthcoming
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.
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.