Results prove need for new accountability system

Maine reports Adequate Yearly Progress results showing fewer than one third of schools making arbitrary targets

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Education released its annual report today on the progress of schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The results for the current year underscore the deficiencies in the federal accountability system and the need for Maine to secure a waiver from the federal law’s provisions, according to Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced last week that he would accept requests for waivers from states because of known problems with the existing system.

As the federal law now exists, Maine schools are required each year to meet higher testing targets than the previous year in order to make adequate yearly progress. As a result, even as school performance remains the same, or even improves, fewer and fewer schools meet the increased progress requirements. By the 2013-14 testing year, 100 percent of students in all subgroups must be proficient for a school to achieve the status of making adequate yearly progress, according to the existing accountability system.

For 2011-12, only 184 schools out of 608 in Maine, or 30 percent, are labeled as “Making AYP.” That compares to 44 percent of schools last year. The number of schools in “Continuous Improvement Priority Schools” (CIPS) status – meaning they have not met targets for at least two years in a row – increased from 137 last year to 223 this year.

“We are not surprised by the numbers and they just further underscore the need for a new system of accountability,” Bowen said. “We can and should hold schools accountable, but not with a system that unfairly labels schools and is based on unrealistic and simplistic expectations that do not recognize differences among schools and school populations.”

Bowen said Maine, like most states, will apply for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. Maine will develop and propose an alternative accountability system as required in its waiver application. The new system will reward schools making progress, base measures of achievement on student growth, not straight scores, and will include educator evaluation models that help assess teacher and administrator performance and support improved teaching through professional development and other efforts.

Bowen noted that Maine already has made strides in several areas that are required as part of the waiver process. Maine has adopted common standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, is developing teacher evaluation models in collaboration with teachers and school districts, and has already been working to develop a model for measuring student growth.

“Nobody is asking for a free pass,” Bowen said, “and the U.S. Department of Education is certainly not offering one. We have a lot of work ahead of us in developing an alternative accountability system. We’ll be engaging with teachers, principals, superintendents, the public, the education associations and others.”

Bowen said he is hoping to submit Maine’s application by mid-February, the second of three possible submission dates set by the U.S. Department of Education. That date will give Maine time to develop a proposal and still put it in place for the 2012-13 school year, he said.

The full AYP results for 2011-12 can be viewed at: http://www.maine.gov/education/pressreleases/ayp/index.html

For more information on Maine and NCLB Flexibility, go to: http://www.maine.gov/education/nclb/accountability.html

The Department also released the 2011-12 Maine High School Assessment results today. These are the basis of AYP status results at the high school level and are posted online at:
http://www.maine.gov/education/mhsa/school_reports.htm