June 29, 2006
The Honorable Susan A. Gendron
Commissioner of Education
Maine Department of Education
23 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0023
Dear Commissioner Gendron:
Thank you for your participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) standards and assessment peer review process under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). I appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the peer review. As you know, with the implementation of NCLB’s accountability provisions, each school, district, and State is held accountable for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) towards having all students proficient by 2013–14. An assessment system that produces valid and reliable results is fundamental to a State’s accountability system.
I am writing to follow up on the letter that was sent to you on April 7, 2006. In that letter we presented the results of the peer review of the Maine standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for Maine to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. Further discussions with you have indicated that these deficiencies, as listed in the enclosure to this letter, have not been resolved.
As you will recall, the Department laid out new approval categories in a letter to the Chief State School Officers on April 24, 2006. These categories better reflect where States collectively are in the process of meeting the statutory standards and assessment requirements and where each State individually stands. Based on these new categories, the current status of the Maine standards and assessment system is Non-Approved. This indicates that Maine’s standards and assessment system administered in the 2005–06 school year has several fundamental components that are missing or that do not meet the statutory and regulatory requirements and that the evidence provided indicates that the State will not be able to administer a fully-approved assessment in the 2006–07 school year.
Maine’s system has a number of fundamental components that warrant the designation of Non-Approved. Specifically, the Department cannot approve Maine’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with technical quality (including local translations of assessments and inter-rater consistency in scoring the Personalized Alternate Assessment Portfolio, or the PAAP), alignment of the content standards to the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) and the PAAP, academic achievement standard setting for the PAAP, and the lack of an alternate assessment in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7. In addition, the Department is not able to approve the use of the SAT without augmentation or evidence of alignment to the State content standards. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence Maine must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.
Because of the scope and significance of the areas in which Maine has not met Title I statutory and regulatory requirements and because the State will not be able to administer a fully-approved assessment in the 2006–07 school year, Maine must enter into a Compliance Agreement with the Department, as authorized by Section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act. The purpose of a compliance agreement is to enable a grantee to remain eligible to receive funding while coming into full compliance with applicable requirements as soon as feasible but within three years. The Department and the State will need to agree on the components of the compliance agreement including a detailed plan and specific timeline for how Maine will accomplish the steps necessary to bring the State into compliance. In addition, before entering into a compliance agreement the Department must hold a hearing to explore why full compliance with the Title I standards and assessment requirements is not feasible until a future date. The State, affected students and their parents, and other interested parties may participate. The Department must publish findings of noncompliance and the substance of the compliance agreement in the Federal Register. In addition, there will be specific conditions placed on Maine’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award.
Because Maine has not met the requirements of NCLB for the 2005–06 school year and will not be able to come into compliance during the 2006–07 school year, the Department intends to withhold 25 percent of the State’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, totaling $113,883, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA. Maine has the opportunity, within 20 business days of receipt of this letter, to show cause in writing why we should not withhold these funds. If Maine cannot show cause, the Department will withhold 25 percent of Maine’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to the local educational agencies in Maine.
I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system and we are committed to helping you get there. Toward that end, let me reiterate my earlier offer of technical assistance. We remain available to assist you however necessary to ensure you administer a fully approved system. We will schedule an additional peer review when you have evidence available to further evaluate your system. If you have any questions or would like to request reconsideration of the conditions, please do not hesitate to call Catherine Freeman (firstname.lastname@example.org or (202-401-3058) or Carlos Martinez (202- 260-2493) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor John Baldacci
SUMMARY OF ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE THAT MAINE MUST SUBMIT TO MEET ESEA REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MAINE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY
- Documentation that any modified SAT for high school fully conforms to NCLB requirements.
- Documentation that the use of accommodations, for both students with disabilities and English language learners, and/or alternate assessments yields scores from which valid inferences may be drawn.
- Evidence of technical quality of the PAAP, including reliabilities for student subpopulations, generalizability studies, inter-rater consistency in scoring of constructed response items, and conditional standard errors of measurement for each cut score.
5.0 - ALIGNMENT
- A comprehensive, impartial alignment study of the SY 05-06 assessment items with the new GLEs for grades 3-8 for the MEA in reading and mathematics.
- A work plan and timeline for an impartial study of alignment between the SAT and the Maine Learning Results (MLR) for grade 11.
- A comprehensive impartial alignment study for the MLR content standards and the alternate achievement standards for PAAP
6.0 - INCLUSION
- Documentation that the local translation of assessments for LEP students does not invalidate their scores (See 4.0).