August 31, 2004
Honorable Susan A. Gendron
Commissioner of Education
Maine Department of Education
23 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0023
Dear Commissioner Gendron:
I am writing in response to Maine's request to amend its State accountability plan under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Following our discussions with your staff, those changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Maine submitted to the Department on June 30, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter.
Additionally, based on information you have provided us, regarding the actions taken by the Maine Department of Education to finalize certain elements in the accountability plan required under NCLB, Maine has met the conditions of approval that were detailed in Eugene W. Hickok's May 19, 2003 letter to Maine. I am pleased to fully approve Maine's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, Maine makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Maine must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Approval of Maine's accountability plan is not also an approval of Maine's standards and assessment system. As Maine makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Maine must submit information about those changes to the Department for peer review through the standards and assessment process.
Please also be aware that approval of Maine's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendments approved above, does not indicate that the plan complies with Federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
I hope that you have found the accountability plan amendment process effective for implementing a State accountability system that best serves the needs of Maine's students and schools and that will lead to improving the academic achievement of all students. As evidenced by the diversity among State accountability plans and State consolidated applications, States have great flexibility in the design of their systems and implementation of particular NCLB provisions. If, as you implement your accountability plan, you find additional elements of your plan that you believe should be refined or amended for next school year to best serve the needs of your students and schools, I encourage you to explore all the areas of flexibility available to your State.
In addition to the flexibility available to States in the design and implementation of their accountability plans, I also encourage you and your districts to utilize the additional flexibility available for the administration and operation of NCLB programs. NCLB continued the flexibility available to States and districts under the 1994 reauthorization of the ESEA, including the ability to consolidate State and local administrative funds (sections 9201 and 9203), to operate schoolwide programs (section 1114), and to participate in the Education Flexibility Partnership Program ("Ed-Flex"). Additionally, NCLB created several new flexibility options for States and districts for the operation of federal programs. These new flexibility provisions include the State Flexibility Authority (sections 6141 through 6144), the Local Flexibility Demonstration program (sections 6151 through 6156), Transferability (sections 6121 through 6123), and the Rural Education Achievement program (sections 6201 through 6234). These flexibilities truly offer States and districts the ability to target federal resources to their unique and individual needs.
I am confident that Maine will continue to advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If I can be of any additional assistance to Maine in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor John Baldacci
ENCLOSURE: Amendments to the Maine Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Maine Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html
Acountability for schools without tested grades (Element 1.1)
Revision: Maine has provided more details about how schools without tested grades will receive AYP decisions. This amendment was requested previously (August 21, 2003) and approved by the Department on October 3, 2003. Maine has also clarified that schools that are not under their control are not included in the accountability system. Schools that are operated by local boards (e.g., Baxter School for the Deaf) are included in the accountability system.
Achievement Levels (Element 1.3)
Revision: The cut score for proficient in reading and mathematics will be the score that begins the range of scores that comprise Meets the Standards and Exceeds the Standards. Note: This is not a change in their proficiency standard; simply a change in the way Maine describes the standard.
Full academic year (element 2.3)
Revision: Maine provides more detail about its full academic year definition. The Operations Manual (which is an appendix to the accountability plan) explains that the full academic year is from October 1st through the testing window.
Subgroup accountability (Element 2.3)
Revision: For purposes of AYP, Maine has identified the major/racial ethnic subgroups.
Identification of districts for improvement (Element 4.1)
Revision: Maine will identify districts for improvement based on missing AYP in the same subject and all grade spans (elementary, middle schools and high schools) for consecutive years. In implementing this provision, States should 1) monitor districts that have not made AYP in one or more grade spans but have not been identified for improvement to ensure they are making the necessary curricular and instructional changes to improve achievement, and 2) take steps to ensure supplemental services are available to eligible students from a variety of providers throughout the State (including in LEAs that have not been identified for improvement but that have schools that have been in improvement for more than one year).
Students with disabilities (Element 5.3)
Revision: Maine will be using the final regulation in the Federal Register issued December 9, 2003, concerning the 1.0% cap.
Assessing LEP students (Element 5.4)
Revision: Maine indicates they will apply the flexibility recently offered by the Department with respect to testing recently arrived LEP students.
Adequate Yearly Progress decisions (Element 5.5)
Revision: Maine is applying a confidence interval to safe harbor determinations. Maine may use this statistical test (limited to a 75% confidence interval) for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations this school year. This amendment was requested previously (August 21, 2003) and approved by the Department on October 3, 2003.
Academic Assessments (Element 6.1, Appendix B)
Revision: By July 2005, Maine will have evaluated the potential use of Local Assessment System results as one component of AYP status.
Graduation Rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: An individual student will be counted as a dropout only once within five years of enrolling in ninth grade in a specific school. In an earlier amendment (August 21,2003), Maine has provided more details about its graduation rate, which aligns its definition with the NCLB requirements.
Reliability (Element 9.1)
Revision: Maine indicates that its new assessments (those in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7) will meet standards for validity and reliability, similar to the current State tests (MEA).
Participation Rate (element 10.1 and 10.2)
Revision: Maine indicates it will adopt the new flexibility regarding students who have medical emergencies during the testing window and its effect on a school's participation rate. Maine indicates it will adopt the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate.