November 8, 2012
Stephen Bowen, Commissioner
Maine Department of Education
23 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333
Dear Commissioner Bowen:
Thank you for submitting Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility. We appreciate the hard work required to transition to college- and career-ready standards and assessments; develop a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; and evaluate and support teacher and leader effectiveness. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is encouraged that Maine and many other States are designing rigorous plans to increase the quality of instruction and improve student academic achievement.Maine’s request was reviewed by a panel of six peer reviewers during the week of October 1, 2012. During the review, the peers considered each component of Maine’s request and provided comments in the form of Peer Panel Notes that the Secretary will use to inform any revisions to your request that may be needed to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility. The Peer Panel Notes, a copy of which is enclosed with this letter, also provide feedback on the strengths of Maine’s request and areas that would benefit from further development. The Department’s ESEA flexibility team has also carefully reviewed Maine’s request, taking into account the Peer Panel Notes, to determine consistency with the ESEA flexibility principles.
The peers noted, and the Department’s ESEA flexibility team agrees, that Maine’s request was particularly strong in transitioning to and implementation of college- and career-ready standards and assessments, developing an accountability system based on achievement and growth, lowering its n-size, and laying a foundation to work towards adopting guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.
At the same time, based on the peer reviewers’ comments and our review of the materials Maine has provided to date, we have identified certain components of your request that need further clarification, additional development, or revision. In particular, concerns were identified with respect to the following:
- Lack of information regarding targeted and differentiated interventions in priority and focus schools, or any schools failing to meet targets and make progress;
- Weak graduation rate accountability; and
- Lack of accountability for subgroups, particularly English Learners, students with disabilities, and low-achieving students, across the request, including lack of detail regarding transition to college- and career-ready standards for teachers of English Learners and students with disabilities.
The enclosed list provides details regarding these concerns, as well as other key issues raised in the review of Maine’s request, that must be addressed before the Secretary can approve your request for ESEA flexibility. We encourage Maine to consider the all of the peers’ comments and technical assistance suggestions in making revisions to its request, but we encourage you to focus primarily on addressing the concerns identified on the enclosed list.
Although the Peer Panel Notes for Maine provide information specific to your request, Maine may also benefit from comments and technical assistance suggestions made by other peer panels regarding issues common to multiple State educational agencies’ (SEA) requests. For this reason, Department staff will reach out to Maine to provide relevant technical assistance suggestions and other considerations that may be useful as you revise and refine your request.
We remain committed to working with Maine to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility and improve outcomes for all students. We stand ready to work with Maine as quickly as possible. In order to ensure prompt consideration of revisions or additional materials, we are asking SEAs to submit those materials by November 30, 2012. Department staff will be in touch to set up a call as early as this week to discuss the timeline and process for providing revisions or materials.
You and your team deserve great credit for your efforts thus far, and I am confident that the Department’s ESEA flexibility team will work with your staff to address outstanding concerns. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Pat Johnson at 202-260-7813. Thank you for your continued commitment to all of Maine’s children.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Deborah Friedman, Director of Policy and Programs, Office of the Commissioner