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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner        

DATE:             March 24, 2006

RE:                  Update – Implementation of Maine Learning Results

            My expectation for all students achieving the Maine Learning Results in order to graduate in 2010 has not changed.  In the ten years since the enactment of the Maine Learning Results legislation we have developed expertise that requires us to adjust and refine our strategies for achieving this goal for all of Maine’s students.

            One of the recent lessons learned is the need to re-balance how we collect and use assessment information on the State and local levels to measure progress and ensure a fair and reliable accountability system.  While using multiple measures to determine what each student knows and is able to demonstrate we must also examine the purposes of our assessments at the student, classroom, school, school administrative unit, and state levels.

Local Level

            Classroom Assessments are at the heart of standards based reform.  The interactions among students and with their teachers provides the foundation for student learning and achievement.  Formative assessments that inform the students of their progress also guides teaching practices.  Our purpose is to help students want to learn.

            Common Assessments were intended to inform teaching and learning at the school and school administrative unit levels.  This system has been overbuilt and derailed the “formative” assessments at the teacher/student, classroom levels.  We are taking a “pause” on this part of the Local Assessment System in order to clarify, simplify, and re-balance the accountability system.
State Level

            State Assessments have increased to include the Maine Educational Assessments (MEA) at grade levels 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.  We also added the PSATs at grade 10 and the SATs at grade 11.  These measures of student performance provide accountability for federal (NCLB), state, and school administrative unit reporting. 
            The moratorium is an intentional pause that will enable us to refine and reevaluate the purposes of “common assessments” in the broader context of using multiple measures for attainment of a standards based diploma.

            I am bringing together practitioners throughout the State to work with me and other consultants to re-balance our system.

Dr. Michael Fullan will be joining us on April 13 and 14, 2006 for conversations with various stakeholder groups to explore the following questions from a very broad perspective.   

            He and an associate will explore the following questions. 

            We have sent him materials to review with his team that include: SAU visit data, Local Assessment System (Guidance, Measured Measures, Considering Consistency), and Performance Data (MEA, PSAT/SAT/AP, dropout, high school graduation rates, Teacher Workload and Stressors (A Survey Conducted for the Commissioner’s Task Force on Teacher Workload, 2004);, Implementing Standards Based Education in Maine (Harris & Fairman, 2006))  Please see the end of this letter for direct links to these full reports.

In addition to this work I have organized two task forces with specific targets to inform our next steps.

The Task Force for Grades 3-8 is charged with:

The Secondary Education Policy Task Force for Grades 6-12 is charged with:

Dr. David Silvernail conducted a Secondary Analysis of the Review Evidence from the 165 SAU site visits.   We learned from the SAU visits that there are areas that we can focus our energies while we work to refine the state/local assessment system.  Through professional partnerships we can engage with expertise from the field and from our critical friends to:

            Let me assure you that our commitment to ALL the components of the System of Learning Results has not changed:

The work plan with Michael Fullan and the two Task Forces is ambitious.  This will ensure that we have the necessary information to revise Chapters 125 and 127 this fall in preparation for the next legislative session.

I encourage each of you to focus your professional development on expanding the pedagogies used in classrooms to strengthen our collective abilities to improve student achievement.  Keep your focus on formative assessments – moment to moment reflection, adjustments within the classroom by the teacher of each child.  According to Dylan Willam in his recent research project he has seen greater improvements in student achievement when school communities discuss practice and implement new pedagogies in the classroom.  I believe a focus on pedagogy and strengthening our capacity throughout the State will enhance our ability to achieve all components of the System of Learning Results.