American Institutes for Research selected to administer Smarter Balanced assessments

The following Priority Notice was distributed to educators on Monday, July 7.

Dear Educators,

Earlier this year, the Department made clear our commitment to rigorous standards and aligned assessments. To that end, I wanted to let you know we have just selected the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to administer our Smarter Balanced aligned State assessments in grades 3-8 and grade 11 for the 2014-15 school year.

AIR was chosen through a competitive process and we are confident their selection is best for Maine students and educators. Because they were the vendor that delivered the Smarter Balanced field test that many of your schools participated in this spring, their assessment engine and experience will be familiar to tens of thousands of Maine students and educators when it is first used statewide for State and federal accountability purposes in the spring of 2015.

AIR’s package includes summative and interim assessments for grades 3-8 and grade 11. Additionally, through our one-year contract with them, we will be able to provide high schools the option of utilizing interim and formative assessments for grades 9 and 10, though doing so of course remains entirely a local decision. The optional assessments will be provided at no cost to districts.

As you likely know, since 2007 Maine has used the SAT for State and federal accountability at the high school level and required all third-year students to participate. As the Department has previously communicated, the Smarter Balanced aligned assessment to be administered next year by AIR will replace the SAT as the mandatory grade 11 measure in math, critical reading and writing. That said, we know many high school students and families have appreciated that the State offered a free college readiness exam and it is our intention to again make one available in 2014-15, though certainly taking it would not be mandatory. We are currently exploring the best options for Maine students and schools, and will send out a priority notice as soon as decisions have been made.

We greatly value our relationship with our previous assessment administrator, Measured Progress, which will continue to provide our State science assessment and alternate, as well as our system for accountability reporting to the U.S. Department of Education. And we look forward to developing our new partnership with AIR in the year ahead as together with your help, we implement a fair, accurate and comprehensive assessment system that better provides parents and educators the information they need to help all Maine kids be college and career ready when they leave our schools.

If you have questions about the changes in our assessment program or would like technical assistance, please contact our Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome at rachelle.tome@maine.gov or 207-624-6705 or our Assessment Coordinator Sue Fossett at susan.fossett@maine.gov or 207-624-6775.

Sincerely,

Jim Rier, Commissioner
Maine Department of Education