Discussion, continued: Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility

We want to hear from you.

The Maine DOE has entered the second, more earnest, phase of work developing an accountability and improvement system that’s thoughtful, fair and constructive; a system that considers multiple valid measures in determining the performance of students and schools; and a system that helps struggling schools improve rather than feel stigmatized.

This work on a new accountability and improvement system is in preparation for a September 2012 deadline for submitting a request to the federal government for flexibility in implementing the decade-old No Child Left Behind Act (or Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Most states are applying for this ESEA flexibility.

Not only do we want to hear from you – we are required to. As part of our application, Maine must provide evidence that we have involved stakeholders in a significant way in the development of our proposal.

Add your feedback as a comment at the bottom of this post. Please read the Maine DOE Newsroom’s Comments Policy before you respond.

Here are some potential discussion topics, but feel free to address any aspect of Maine’s ESEA flexibility request.

  • For which content areas and grade levels should Annual Measurable Objectives be set?
  • What role – if any – should growth play? How should growth be measured?
  • In a learner-centered proficiency-based system, how should student learning (achievement and attainment) be assessed and reported?
  • What is the ‘Theory of Action’ that should inform and support the improvement (i.e. turnaround) of schools identified as either focus or priority status?
  • In what ways should the support/interventions be customized for identified schools (i.e. grade levels, content area, demographics of students identified, length of time with status, etc.)?
  • How many different levels of overall school performance should be measured (i.e. should there be more than the three prescribed by the ESEA Flexibility application)? What language should be used to characterize these different levels?
  • What incentives and rewards should be provided to ‘reward’ schools?

Thank you for your feedback! Visit Maine DOE’s ESEA Flexibility page for more information and other opportunities to share your input.

(Interested in reading the earlier conversation? Go ahead, but let’s pick up the new conversation below.)

2 thoughts on “Discussion, continued: Maine’s request for ESEA flexibility

  1. Thank you, Shawn for your insightful comments and clear ideas. The group tasked with helping to think through the variety of measures that will be used in the state accountability system being proposed under the ESEA Flexibility opportunity is meeting again tomorrow (June 20th). I will be certain to share your post with them.

    I know that many educators find the NWEA program helpful for formative purposes – especially its adaptive nature and fast scoring. I know that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests which will be ready by 2014-2015 will incorporate these and other features. They will provide helpful data that can be triangulated with student learning evidence from other sources. I think it’s vital to ensure there is a mix of measures and that we focus on growth rather than on a fixed target that for some students is far too ambitious and for others is not challenging enough depending on where they start the year. That said, we still need to ensure that the diploma expectations are universally high for all Maine students. That’s where personalization and supports come in. And like you, I believe a proficiency-based system is necessary to do this well.

    Mark Kostin
    Great Schools Partnership

  2. I hope to find time to follow this closely and support your efforts. Pardon me for not sitting down to write an organized, formal response. I am just speaking from my experience and passion to present children with the best education in hopes to prepare them for a future which will be like nothing this world has ever seen. We must help students become excited about learning helping instill within them the curiosity that they are born with. Students must develop a need/desire to find and solve problems. Guiding students in the acquisition of 21st century skills (media literacy) and modeling research and problem-solving skills will help students become lifelong learners. Students must have the opportunity to help solve real problems in their community and state.

    Today’s tests that require simple recall force teachers to speed through content to cover the material that will be on tests. Is there any wonder why many of our students lose interest? Less is more if we can practice the learning and problem-solving process gathering pertinent data and using it to inform decisions and further the research. Science is the best starting point because it can present opportunities for learning in an integrated way including math naturally as student groups try to understand nature using math, history, and available tools to find solutions, predict outcomes, and communicate learning.

    Right now the SAT and future tests being developed are preventing positive change. Teachers are ready to try new methods but the old system has a strangle hold on us because schools and principals are judged based on test scores. We need time to try new methods and teach how to learn and then practice learning. Our children have to innovate and be creative in order to be successful and productive later.

    Performance-based assessments are best for learning. Learning is remembered when the content is scrutinized and skills repeated while doing project-based learning. We must continue our efforts towards standards-based assessment and individualized learning where students must value learning and prove through a portfolio that they are ready for the next learning challenge(s). Our benchmarks must be general focused on higher level thinking and skill development and include the use of content which is now just a click away.

    Standards-based education will also finally allow teachers to fully use and analyze formative data instead of feeling the need to put it in a gradebook. Formative assessment guides instruction and allows teachers to target teaching and learning for particular students and/or groups of students.

    Students must communicate with experts, learn how to do proper research while sharing ideas, and become proficient in the use of 21st century tools (wikis, blogs, podcasts, videos, & those still being developed) to publish their learning for others to read and respond to.

    Students need to begin to practice learning the ways that they will in the real world (researching, collaborating, communicating, finding and solving problems).

    In my years of teaching middle and high school, I have planned and led projects that meet standards in different content areas. These are skills that teachers need. Teacher should work together and, for instance, math work in the science classroom should receive math credit. Teachers must stop working in isolation with their doors closed. Teachers in different content areas must develop integrated units/projects.

    Lastly, I am a big supporter of the NWEA MAP testing. It provides both formative and summative data along with information on a child’s progression through the learning process. Students learn while they are taking these tests and the testing does not take away from learning, but rather adds to it. Many schools only use the NWEA math and reading tests to acquire data required by the State and Federal Government. When are we going to start caring about science and math? The NWEA Science has a choice of tests (one integrated and another for students learning science by topic (Life, Physical, Earth). A language test identifies where a student is along the path to writing and the mechanics of writing. Amazingly, the same language test is used for 2nd through 12th graders. Please, please consider using the NWEA for charting student progress. It is specific to the student and growth can be seen. This is much better than test results that judge a school on whether succeeding classes improve. What a bad way to judge kids/schools!!

    I hope some of this will help develop a system of accountability. I do worry about teacher accountability efforts. We need change. Teacher must feel comfortable taking risks and trying new methods. If they are going to be judged on how students perform after a new teaching approach, teachers will revert to old methods.

    Enough of my rambling. Good luck with your work!

    Shawn Kimball
    ACTEM Leader of the Year
    October 2011

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