What does approved ESEA waiver mean for your school?

On Monday, we announced that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Maine’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver.

Maine earned the waiver – which can be viewed at www.maine.gov/doe/accountability – because we developed an ambitious yet achievable plan to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps and increase the quality of instruction. As a result, Maine will cut in half the percentage of non-proficient students at each school over the next six years.

We will do this in partnership with you through the continued implementation of college and career ready standards for all students, educator evaluations and a differentiated system of accountability and support for Maine’s 380 Title I served schools. Unlike the original No Child Left Behind (NCLB) measures, Maine’s approved plan will distinguish schools not just by student proficiency but also progress. Schools will be placed in one of five categories: priority, focus, monitor, progressing and meeting, providing a more comprehensive picture of how a school is doing, as opposed to the oversimplified “making AYP” or “not” designations of NCLB. These tiers will also allow Maine DOE to most intensively target its intervention and support to schools that past performance shows need it the most, though improvement resources will be available to all Maine public schools.

With our approval in hand, Maine DOE will now work to create the list of schools by category. We are currently awaiting high school data and should publish the complete school list in September, which is expected to show about 20 priority schools and 40 focus schools.

In the meantime, we anticipate you have questions about the waiver and what it means for your school. On Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 1:30 to 3 p.m., Maine DOE Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome and I will be available via conference call to provide an overview of Maine’s approved plan and answer those questions. Please join us by calling 877-455-0244 and using conference code 6540808455.

Thank you for your patience over the last 11 months as Maine worked with USDOE to finalize our proposal. While the final accountability system varies from the original in details, I believe that it is much better than the one we would be required to implement if we hadn’t achieve this flexibility. Most importantly, this waiver allows us to focus our time and resources helping schools with the greatest need instead of spreading limited resources so thinly around all Title 1 schools that they would be unlikely to improve student achievement.  Now we can get down to the real work of helping Maine schools serve Maine students.

I look forward to speaking with you about this important step forward on tomorrow’s conference call.

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