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TO:           Secondary School Principals, Secondary School Guidance Directors, Special Educational Directors, Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and Curriculum Coordinators

FROM:     Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:      September 22, 2005

RE:           Transition from the MEA to the College Board SAT for Grade 11 Students in 2005-06

Key Points Covered in this Informational Letter:


Beginning in the spring of 2006, Maine students in their third year of high school will participate in the College Board SAT as a replacement for the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA). This significant change to our secondary assessment program is founded on the following policy goals:  

This policy direction recognizes both the value of current efforts of teachers and administrators toward continuing school improvement, and the comparatively high standing of Maine schools in the nation.   However, the evidence is clear that we need to work together to move our public education system to an even higher level of effectiveness.   To this end, the Department is collaborating with the College Board to make available an array of programs to support student success and provide professional development opportunities for teachers, including special education and alternative education teachers, and guidance personnel.

Achieving proficiency in verbal and mathematics skills is a necessity, not an option, for any student, if he or she is to leave secondary school with opportunities to succeed in post secondary education or the workplace.   Presently, 75% of Maine secondary students take SAT tests.   The time has come to establish a policy for the inclusion of all students.   Our expectation is that all students will participate in the PSAT and SAT programs.   The only exception will be the small number of students with the most severe cognitive disabilities.   Those students will continue to have access to high academic standards through the Personalized Assessment Portfolio Process (PAAP).

It is important to note that Maine is not alone in reconsidering alternatives to the high school test.   Other states are considering a similar approach to help to change student attitudes about post-secondary aspirations. We believe that this policy direction will become more common over the next few years as States confront the necessity of graduating increasing numbers of students fully prepared for college and 21 st century careers.

Additional Assessment Policy Considerations:

            Changing the 11 th grade test from the MEA to the SAT requires that we address a number of other assessment policy issues.   First, in order to ensure that the SAT is a valid measure of Maine’s Learning Results (MLR), documenting alignment between the SAT and the MLR is necessary.   To begin this process, the College Board contracted with an independent assessment consultant to conduct an alignment study.   The results of this study made clear that the content addressed by the MLR and the content tested by the SAT are highly aligned.   A follow-up study will be conducted in the near future to confirm these initial findings and to consider any additional steps that might be necessary to ensure that the SAT will be an effective tool for State purposes.   In addition to the alignment study, we are very pleased to note that, in cooperation with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) program will “code” the SAT so that local school districts participating in the SEC program can determine the extent to which local curriculum and instruction are aligned with the SAT.  

Second, in order to provide test results that can be used for a variety of State and local purposes, the Department will need to set performance standards similar to those established for the MEA.   The use of student raw scores on the test is the critical issue here and one that will be addressed through the standard setting process.   The Department will utilize a standard setting process that involves panels of Maine teachers and citizens to establish proficiency standards.   This will enable the test results to be used in the Local Assessment System (LAS) and to be used as a valid basis for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) purposes.  

Finally, in order to ensure that we retain our commitment to equity, a program is being organized to provide access to test preparation for students and schools that might not otherwise have sufficient resources.   This will be undertaken against the background of the initial savings that Maine families will realize by virtue of the State paying registration fees for all students taking the State required administration of the SAT in their third year of high school.   In addition, it is the policy of the College Board to provide all students that are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs multiple opportunities to take the SAT free.  

College Board SAT, State, and No Child Left Behind Act Reports:

SAT Reports :   Students will receive official SAT score reports that they may use as they apply to colleges both in Maine and elsewhere.   It is important to communicate to students and their parents that Maine is not changing the SAT format or content in any way. This will ensure that all colleges using SAT results in their admission process will accept the scores.   Any student whose accommodations exceed those approved by the College Board will receive a State score for NCLB purposes, but not an approved SAT score.   In addition to the student reports, high schools will be able to use the individual score and summary information to guide evaluation of curriculum and instructional effectiveness.

State and NCLB Reports :   To comply with the requirements of standards based reporting on achievement of Maine’s Learning Results and the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability requirements of NCLB, a standards based reporting format will be developed.   While the formats of the new reports have not yet been determined, they will likely be similar to the current MEA School Summary Reports.   The student will receive a State proficiency score based on Maine’s performance standards in addition to SAT norm referenced scores.   Likewise, schools will receive summary reports detailing student proficiency.   This standards reporting format will serve as the basis for AYP determinations.

Implementation Details in Preparation for the SAT Administration in April, 2006:

Beginning with the 2005-06 school year, all grade 11 students (including 3 rd year secondary school students regardless of grade or credits earned) will be required to take the SAT or the MEA-PAAP.   The official date for the required Maine administration for the SAT will be Saturday April 1, 2006.   For the convenience of students, the Department is working with the College Board to add a number of new high school sites to those already in place for the April 1, 2006 testing date.   SAT administration times and sites for students needing significant accommodations will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

More detailed information on the implementation of this new program will be sent to you concerning the following initial details:

Concluding Comments:

The implementation of this policy initiative, aimed at increasing college readiness, sets an ambitious timetable for implementation.   There will be many implementation issues to work out along the way; however, it is essential that we move ahead.   I will assign a staff member to coordinate implementation details and serve as a conduit for communications directly with schools.   It is our intent to keep you briefed on progress.   In the interim, please communicate with Dr. Horace “Brud” Maxcy at (207) 624-6774 or by e-mail at, as soon as possible when you have a question or concern related to the implementation.

From my perspective, the focus of this new policy is not the test, but the preparation of the student to achieve high standards.   The College Board SAT is a fair measure of our Learning Results expectations, as confirmed by an alignment study, making it an appropriate assessment program.   The SAT is seen by the vast majority of students as a passport to their next step toward adult life, so the motivation to do well is very high; thus, I believe the performance results produced should provide a fair reflection of our students’ achievement of Maine’s rigorous Learning Results expectations.   The continuing challenge for all of us is to implement effective strategies that raise expectations for all students and prepare them for success.