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TO:                 Superintendents of Schools and School Principals

FROM:           Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:            September 23, 2005

SUBJECT:     -Update on School Administrative Unit (SAU) Review Process Pilots
                        -Postponement of October 3, 4 and 5, 2005 Training for Review Team Members

**** Please forward to School Principals, Administrators, and Teachers ****

First, I'd like to extend my sincere appreciation to the administration and staff of School Union 93 and of SAD 77, their private school colleagues, and our first two Department of Education (DOE) Review Teams and process observers, for participating in the first two pilot SAU Reviews on September 21, 2005.  As noted in our training sessions and the Orientation Meetings that have been conducted so far, the Department is monitoring this process very carefully as it unfolds, in order to address issues as they arise.  While we will conduct a more complete debriefing on all five of the pilots once they are completed next week, feedback gathered from the DOE Review Teams that participated in the first two pilots has pointed to a few challenges that are significant enough to warrant an adjustment that will be tested in the three remaining pilots. 

This letter provides you with a description of the changes we will be piloting, and with notice of the resulting need to postpone the October 3, 4 and 5, 2005 trainings for DOE Review Teams, which include our educational colleagues who are not in the Department. We struggled with this decision to postpone the training, given that your staff has had it scheduled for some time, and we deeply regret the inconvenience this may cause.  However, in order to have sufficient time to revise the key documents and to prepare our trainers on these adjustments, we must allow some additional time between the debriefing on the pilots on September 29, 2005 and the trainings. We will provide the new schedule for training as soon as it established.  We do not expect it to have an impact on the start date we have established for the SAU Reviews, which is October 17, 2005

In terms of the documents we have sent to the SAUs and posted on our website, the self-assessment tool itself remains unchanged. The adjustments we are testing are changes to the Process and Protocol document that you received with the self-assessment tool.  A revised version of that document will be sent to you after the debriefing on the pilot visits next week, but I'd like to outline the changes for you here, to keep you apprised of our efforts to make this as valuable and as successful a visit as possible. 

Please note the following changes:

1.  The SAU is not required to complete the self-assessment tool for Standards 4 - 9 for purposes of this visit; please feel free to use these additional standards as a planning tool, but now it is not necessary to complete the self-assessment for these Standards for purposes of the SAU review visit.  We found that the lack of an evidence-based approach for standards 4 - 9 did not work well for either the SAU or the Department.

2.  The role of the DOE Review Team now is being modified to enhance the formative goal of the SAU Review Process and to strengthen the SAU Review Team’s ability to engage in a dialogue using both the compiled evidence and the survey data on Core Standards 1, 2 and 3.  We have eliminated the DOE Review Team's responsibility to determine whether or not the SAU's placement on the continuum is demonstrated by the evidence.  This step will allow us to more effectively identify the issues on which to conduct the Concluding Conversation regarding technical assistance in the afternoon.

As you can see, the adjustments should both lighten the burden of preparation and make more effective and less taxing use of the time devoted to the visit.  Also, the element of judgment by the DOE Review Team is eliminated from the process.  Rather, the DOE Review Team will gather the data presented by the SAU in the morning discussion and will use it to inform the afternoon discussion on the SAU's technical assistance needs in a way that is far more focused.  We continue to see great value in having the DOE Review Teams join you for a day of discussion in that it will allow us to obtain a much richer picture of the current status of SAUs.

We hope that you share my belief that these adjustments, if successful for the remaining three pilot visits, will allow for better discussion in a more relaxed and collaborative atmosphere, without sacrificing the collection of the data that matters most - namely, what the SAUs across the State need, from the Department or other sources, to aid them in implementing the Learning Results and the Local Assessment System in a timely and sustainable way.

Again, my thanks to those at School Union 93 and SAD 77 and their private school colleagues, and the DOE Review Teams for the important service they have provided to all of us by participating in the first two pilot sites.