Smarter Balanced bill passes committee

The following Priority Notice from Maine DOE Acting Commissioner Tom Desjardin was sent to schools on Thursday, May 21.

Dear Educators,

On Monday (5/18/15) the legislature’s Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs held a work session on LD 1276 “An Act To Improve Educational Assessments of Maine Students.” This bill required that the Department of Education withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and not engage with SBAC on any future statewide assessments.

The bill passed unanimously in committee and will be debated and voted on in both houses of the legislature in the coming weeks.

While passage of this bill would (if it becomes law) eliminate the use of SBAC in future assessments, it has no effect whatsoever on this year’s assessment.

The information being gathered as a result of this year’s assessment is very valuable to the work that we do at the DOE and helps us decide how millions of dollars in state and federal support is sent out to local schools. Because of this, it is very important that schools who have not completed the assessment continue to do so.

The results from this year’s assessment will provide us with information about how well students have learned the content of our standards in ELA and Math. Next year’s assessment, though using a different instrument, will still provide us with similar information about student learning.

Going forward, it is our intention at DOE to pull together a group of educators and other stakeholders to begin work on the wording of the Request for Proposals (RFP) through which our next assessment will be chosen.

RFPs are essentially solicitations of bids from vendors.Within these documents is a list of requirements of a potential vendor and a scoring system to determine which of those requirements are more important than others.These will include things such as previous success in delivering a similar assessment, a high rate of customer service from previous partners, costs, and many other requirements.

The RFP will then be sent out to organizations that may be interested in, and capable of, conducting the assessment for us next year. In drafting this RFP, we will place great emphasis on two priorities; reducing the number of hours an average student sits in front of a test and the costs in both time and money to local school districts in carrying out all of the assessments they use, both state and locally chosen. We will also lean toward a new vendor with a proven track record working with Maine schools.

There have been some pretty dramatic changes happening in the world of student assessment of late. Organizations who provide assessments are working very hard to develop new and innovative assessment tools to replace SBAC and eliminate the issues that have been raised by educators surrounding that assessment.This may very well prove highly beneficial to Maine as we take advantage of these new innovations.

Work on this RFP will begin very soon and we will keep you posted on the progress.

Sincerely,

Tom Desjardin, Acting Commissioner
Maine Department of Education