Commissioner’s Update – March 19, 2015

From Acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin

This week, thousands of Maine students began the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) for Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy developed by Smarter Balanced. More than a decade after we began putting technology in the hands of Maine students and teachers to support their 21st century learning and teaching, our state is finally using this familiar environment to assess what students know and are able to do.

From what you’ve told us, the first week of online testing has been a success. In the words of one district: “So far. So good.” Schools reported no major problems and expressed appreciation that our Department’s staff had quick answers to any questions asked. 

I’m glad things are getting off to such a good start because I believe in the incredible potential of this new online assessment and I know how hard so many of you are working to see that potential fully realized. On behalf of Maine students, thank you.

Unlike the bubble tests of the past, this new assessment measures higher-order thinking and how students actually apply the skills they should be learning and need for 21 century college and career success. Its adaptive abilities – meaning questions and their difficulty are adjusted based on a participant’s previous answers  –  helps teachers better help their students by more accurately pinpointing individual student strengths and weaknesses. Results, available in weeks rather than months, more quickly inform instruction and interventions. Universal tools, accommodations and designated supports like the ability to highlight or have the text read aloud, are available thanks to the online delivery. These integrated features alleviate test-taking anxiety and better support the unique needs of each student, especially those with disabilities. And the lengthened 11-week test window gives schools more administration flexibility and creates less stress for students, even though the assessment actually requires significantly fewer hours to administer than the NECAP.

That said, the administration of this new assessment won’t be perfect.

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