December 20, 2006
The Honorable Susan A. Gendron
State of Maine Department of Education
23 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0023
Dear Commissioner Gendron:
I am writing to follow up on my letter, dated June 29, 2006, inviting you to show cause why the U.S. Department of Education (Department) should not withhold 25 percent of the fiscal year 2006 funds the Maine Department of Education reserved for State administration under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). In a letter of July 31, 2006, you responded to this invitation to show cause on behalf of the Maine Department of Education. In addition, we met to discuss the Maine standards and assessment system on October 10 and, following that conversation, you submitted additional evidence on October 31. The Department recognizes and applauds the State's commitment to have a fully approved standards and assessment system, including augmenting the SAT to align with Maine's academic content standards, and its efforts to link high school accountability with college readiness.
In my letter, I listed a number of components where the evidence provided did not demonstrate that Maine's assessments met the ESEA requirements nor did it appear possible that Maine could remedy the deficiencies in time for the 2006-07 test administration. To reiterate, the Department could not 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 Maine's 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 was not able to approve the use of the SAT without augmentation or evidence of alignment to Maine's content standards. Accordingly, Maine's standards and assessment system was assigned the status of Non-Approved. Due to the nature and the number of fundamental components that were missing or did not meet the ESEA requirements and the fact that full compliance by 2006-07 did not seem likely, I indicated the Department's intent to withhold 25 percent of Maine's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A State administrative funds.
In the letter to show cause why the Department should not withhold Title I, Part A administrative funds as well as the follow-up submission on October 31, Maine did not provide evidence demonstrating that the assessments administered during the 2005-06 school year met the requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. However, Maine submitted evidence regarding timelines and amended contracts necessary to complete the remaining pieces and to administer a fully approved assessment system during the 2006-07 school year. As a result, the Department has upgraded Maine's status from Non-Approved to Approval Pending. Please note that Maine must administer an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards in all grades 3 through 8 and high school as well as a high school test, the SAT, that is aligned to Maine's new content standards-the Maine Learning Results-as well as submit the evidence remaining to meet the ESEA requirements listed in the enclosure to this letter.
After careful consideration of Maine's submission, I have concluded that Maine has shown cause why the Department should not withhold the full 25 percent of Maine's Title I, Part A State administrative funds for fiscal year 2006 based on the timelines and amended contracts that demonstrate the likelihood Maine can administer an approved assessment during 2006-07. However, because the assessment system Maine administered in 2005-06 had three fundamental components that were missing or noncompliant, the Department is withholding, under section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, ten percent of Maine's Title I State administrative funds for fiscal year 2006, totaling $45,516, which will revert to the Title I, Part A funds available for districts in Maine. In addition, I am enclosing guidance on how Maine should redirect these funds to its Title I, Part A districts. If you have any questions about this guidance, please contact Sandy Brown of my staff at (202) 260-0976.
Although the status of Maine's standards and assessment system has changed from Non-Approved to Approval Pending, Maine continues to be under Mandatory Oversight, as authorized under 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, we placed specific conditions on Maine's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. In addition, Maine must provide, not later than 20 business days from receipt of this letter, a plan and detailed timeline for how it will meet the remaining requirements to come into full compliance by the end of the 2006-07 school year. Beginning in January 2006, Maine must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, Maine does not meet the timeline set forth in its plan, the Department will initiate proceedings, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, to withhold an additional 10 percent of Maine's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Maine.
I regret having to withhold a portion of Maine's Title I, Part A State administrative funds for significant noncompliance during the 2005-06 school year. I know that you will continue the hard work required to meet the remaining requirements under Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA to have a fully approved system by the end of the 2006-07 school year. We will continue to offer technical assistance to help you in this important work. My staff and I look forward to working with you over the coming year. If you have any remaining questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Zollie Stevenson (Zollie.Stevenson@ed.gov) or Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) 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 the use of the SAT for high school, either with or without augmentation, fully conforms to NCLB requirements, including alignment to the academic content standards and technical quality.
- Documentation that the use of accommodations for all assessments yield scores from which valid inferences may be drawn, especially for the augmented SAT.
- Evidence of technical quality of the Personalized Alternate Assessment Portfolio (PAAP).
- A technical manual that demonstrates the validity and reliability of the MEA for grades 3, 5, 6, and 7.
5.0 - ALIGNMENT
- A comprehensive, impartial alignment study of the assessment items with the new GLEs for grades 3-8 for the MEA in reading and mathematics.
- A comprehensive impartial alignment study for the Maine Learning Results (MLR) content standards and the alternate achievement standards for PAAP.
6.0 - INCLUSION
- An assessment based on alternate achievement standards for students with significant cognitive disabilities for all grades 3-8 and 11.