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INFORMATIONAL LETTER:  #63

POLICY CODE:  ILBA

 

TO:                 Superintendents of Schools, Private School Administrators, Assistant Superintendents, Principals, and Curriculum Coordinators

FROM:           Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:            November 23, 2005

RE:                 Chapter 127 – Instructional Program, Assessment, and Diploma Requirements

            As we continue to take follow-up actions on the mid-course adjustments to the implementation of Maine’s Learning Results enacted by the Legislature, I am sending this important update regarding Chapter 127, Instructional Program, Assessment and Diploma Requirements.   As we have engaged in the initial stages of the review process, key policy goals have been at the forefront of our efforts:  to provide flexibility for districts as they continue to implement the system of Learning Results; to provide increased support and accountability through a Department review and validation of each district’s implementation of the Learning Results; and to promote the development of coherent, connected standards-based systems.

            To ensure that the review and revision of Chapter 127 incorporate broad participation of educational stakeholders, I opted to employ a consensus-based approach to the preliminary process by which key aspects of the rule were considered.  The group invited to participate in the consensus-based process represented key education stakeholders:  the Commissioner’s advisory committees, practitioners from local districts, and representatives from the non-profit professional development service providers.  Approximately 125 individuals were invited to the three-day process, though only roughly 65 were able to participate in the three-session process. 

            The review of Chapter 127 was built around six essential aspects of the rule, and participants signed up to discuss one of the six areas for the majority of the time (Note:  the group on the Role of the MEA/SAT as an External Reference for LAS merged with the LAS group part way through the process, and recommendations from the two groups are combined below.).

  1. The Local Assessment System (LAS):  The goal of this discussion was to clarify aspects of the LAS to provide greater flexibility for local districts, and to consider how the LAS might be modified to respond to capacity issues expressed by educators.

  2. The District Validation and School Assistance Process:  In order to ensure that a high degree of comparability exists across all districts in the State, it is assumed that the Department of Education will need to validate each district’s Learning Results implementation efforts, including the local assessment system.

  3. The Role of the MEA/SAT as an External Reference for LAS:  The goal of this discussion was be to consider whether and how the MEA and SAT should be used as an external reference point to support comparability across districts.

  4. High School Course of Study and/or Core Curriculum:  The secondary course of study now defines the number of credits a student must earn in certain content areas.  However, it is not clear that all districts are providing students with fair opportunities meet the Learning Results.  The goal of this discussion was to consider whether more specific language should be included in the rule to guide districts as they develop educational experiences to ensure all students have a fair chance to meet the standards.

  5. The Learning Results Endorsement:  This discussion focused on whether the Learning Results Endorsement should be for a single content area or for achievement of all content areas required at the time of graduation.  The group also discussed the requirement that the Commissioner set annual targets for the percentage of Learning Results Endorsements, versus credit-based diplomas, districts should award.

  6. Assessment of Achievement for Special Education Students:  LD 1424 made significant modifications to the diploma expectations for students with disabilities.  This discussion group focused on how the rule must add specificity on how the PET process and student IEPs will reflect the new expectations.

            I wish to thank all those who participated in the process for the time, energy, commitment, and passion that made the process effective.  The recommended changes to the rule listed below rely almost exclusively on the recommendations from the consensus-based process.  Some of the proposed revisions to the rule will bring about significant changes to the Local Assessment System and high school diploma requirements.  I strongly encourage participation in the public comment period so that our policy decisions are made with broad-based involvement.  Once the public comment period has elapsed, I will once again have the opportunity to review the perspectives of those who have made comments, and consider modifications based on that input prior to submission to the Legislature. 
           
            Based on the outcomes of the consensus-based process, the Maine Department of Education is proposing amendments to Chapter 127 that include the following:

When possible the LAS will demonstrate support for the eventual attainment of the Guiding Principles. (Ch. 127 Section 4.02 G.)

            A copy of the original rule is available at:  http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/05/chaps05.htm
            A copy of the proposed rule is available at:  http://www.maine.gov/education/rulechanges.htm
            A public hearing will be held on the proposed rule as follows:

            Written comments on the proposed rule will be considered if received in the Department of Education by 12:00 p.m. noon, December 22, 2005.  This can be accomplished by:

We encourage public participation in this rule-making process.
SAG/PP/dcm