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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:             May 26, 2006

RE:                  Moratorium (LD #1425) Passed and Signed

            The Maine Legislature and Governor John Elias Baldacci have enacted a moratorium which is intended to suspend those activities associated with the Local Assessment System (LAS) and designed to certify student achievement of the Maine Learning Results.

            The moratorium is a pause in this work and does not diminish our vision and commitment to achieving Maine’s Learning Results.  The moratorium will provide the time for Michael Fullan to review, analyze and recommend modifications to our system.  He began his review on April 13 and 14, 2006 by meeting with approximately 400 educators.  It was abundantly clear during the conversations with Michael Fullan that assessments are not, historically, the instrument that have accounted for increased student achievement.  The greatest impact on student learning is pedagogy.  His suggestion to us is, during the moratorium, to analyze what we should stop what we should start and what we should continue.  He suggested we focus on the following questions, locally:

            Annually, we have collected data regarding a school’s progress in implementing the Maine Learning Results.  We will continue to do so this year as part of the school approval process.  All principals will report, on the annual school approval form, their intentions to adhere to the moratorium.  Schools that report otherwise will receive a site visit from the Department of Education.  The purpose of the visit is to review the goal of the assessments, understand the guidance from Michael Fullan, and ensure that the practices in place are achieving positive student results.

            While I recognize the authority of School Administrative Units (SAUs) to make local decisions, the moratorium statute expressly states “a moratorium is imposed for the 2006-2007 school year for activities associated with assessments designed to certify student achievement.  Assessments used for informing teaching and learning are exempt from this moratorium.”

            I encourage all districts to use this time to have in-depth conversations with classroom teachers about what is truly assisting in informing instruction.  We know from the SAU visits how beneficial the collaborative time teachers spent discussing students, assessments, and instructional strategies has been to the implementation of Maine’s Learning Results

            I’ve been asked,

  1. Do we stop all assessments?  No.  As noted above, classroom assessments used for teaching and learning are exempt from this moratorium.
  1. Do we stop common assessments?  This is a more difficult answer as the use of common assessments has different meaning in every SAU.  If the SAU has added numerous assessments to classroom assessments, then the answer is YES, STOP.  If the SAU embedded the assessments into the curriculum and there is common agreement that the data is conclusive that the assessment has resulted in positive responses to the three questions posed by Michael Fullan then the SAU may decide to continue; however, please do not continue to double score these assessments.
  1. What if there is a local policy that specifies graduation requirements that exceed State requirements?  SAUs, by statute, can exceed State requirements.  The State requirement has been suspended for one year to allow for a process of certification of student achievement of the Maine Learning Results.

            To facilitate answers to questions that you may have, I am scheduling two conference calls.  The first will be on Wednesday, May 31, 2006 from 1:30 – 2:30 pm and the second will be on Thursday, June 1, 2006 from 9:00 – 10:00 am.  To access the teleconference on either Wednesday or Thursday, please dial:  1-800-304-8043 or 1-719-955-1038.  The passcode is: 557274.  Please note that access to each call is limited to 125 lines, so I ask that neighboring SAUs who can meet together do so, to enable as many as possible to participate.