Administrative Letter: Guidance for suspension, expulsion and modified schedules in public preschool programs

Administrative Letter: 12
Policy Code: JKD
To: Public School Administrators
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
Date: January 18, 2018
Subject: Guidance for suspension, expulsion and modified schedules in public preschool programs

This guidance is offered by the Maine Department of Education to clarify suspension, expulsion, and modified schedules as they apply to 4-year-olds attending public preschool programs.

Suspension, Expulsion, and Modified Schedules in General Education

Suspension for up to 10 days of 4-year-olds attending public preschool programs is permitted only in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. § 1001(9).

As with their K-12 counterparts, 4-year-olds attending public preschool may not be unenrolled nor asked not to return without being afforded the due process standard for expulsion in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. §1001(8-A).

Districts cannot unilaterally determine that a child attend on a modified schedule-e.g. reduced school day, reduced school week.  Parents must be involved in and agree to this decision and understand thoroughly the reasons for the request.

Suspension and Expulsion for Children with Disabilities

In accordance with Federal and State law, a child may not be excluded from enrollment in a public preschool program based solely on the presence of a disability.  Enrolled children who are referred to Child Development Services (CDS) based on program concerns regarding the child’s development or behavior must be considered a child with a disability and afforded the same rights as his/her K-12 counterparts until the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team makes its determinations.

Please contact Sue Reed, Early Childhood Specialist at 624-6632 or or Jan Breton, State Director of Special Services, Birth – 20, 624-6676 with questions or comments about the guidance.

Administrative Letter: Legal Requirements to Provide English Language Acquisition Services to English Learners

Administrative Letter: #11         
Policy Code: IHBEA
TO: Public School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: January 12, 2018
SUBJECT: The legal requirements for providing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services to an English learner

Topics included in this letter:

  • Identification of English learners
  • Exit criteria from ESOL services
  • Delivery of ESOL services
  • Administration of ACCESS for ELLs®
  • Enrollment of immigrants and foreign students
  • Rights of English learners to education
  • English learners and Special Education

Identification of English Learners (EL)

It is a federal requirement that all English learners be identified within 30 days of enrollment from the beginning of the school year or within two weeks of enrollment during the school year.

Each School Administrative Unit (SAU) must administer the Maine Department of Education’s Language Use Survey to the parent/guardian of every student, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, enrolling in the SAU for the first time. The Language Use Survey must be included in the SAU’s enrollment packet. If a student changes schools within an SAU, a new Language Use Survey is not required. The purpose of the Language Use Survey is to identify potential English learners. The Language Use Survey decision tree provides guidance on its use. If any question is answered with a language other than English (including Sign Language), the student is administered an English language proficiency screener. Students in kindergarten are administered either the Kindergarten W-APT® or K-MODEL®. Students in grades 1-12 are administered the WIDA Screener Online®. Students who score a composite proficiency level lower than 5.0 are classified as English learners. For students in pre-kindergarten, districts are permitted to use the screening tool of their choice, as there is not currently a WIDA screener assessment for students under age 4 and a half years old. The Maine Department of Education advises SAUs to employ rigorous criteria for identifying English learners in pre-kindergarten to ensure that all eligible students are served.

Available for download on the Maine Department of Education website and from TransACT is the Language Use Survey in English and 25 of Maine’s most commonly spoken languages. Parents/guardians are entitled to complete the Language Use Survey in their preferred language. SAUs must provide interpretation services upon request.

Exit Criteria from ESOL Services

In order to exit from ESOL services, a student must demonstrate English language proficiency. The Maine Department of Education defines English language proficiency as a composite proficiency level of 5.0 on ACCESS for ELLs®. No other measure qualifies an English learner for exit. While a district may choose to continue to provide language support services to students who have demonstrated English language proficiency, such students are no longer classified as English learners and are no longer administered ACCESS for ELLs®.

Delivery of ESOL Services

An SAU is required to determine the components of an effective English language acquisition program tailored to the needs of each student, which may include but is not limited to tutoring, additional classroom support, materials, sheltered instruction, professional development for content area teachers, or other strategies (Office for Civil Rights December 1985 Title VI policy memorandum, Title VI Language Minority Compliance Procedures).

The Maine Department of Education requires the English language support program of an English learner to be provided or overseen by a 660 ESOL-endorsed teacher. (See 34 Code of Federal Regulations C.F.R. Section 100.3 (b)(ii)). All English learners must be provided with English language support services that enable them to meaningfully access the curriculum in order to meet grade-level standards. English language development and content area knowledge are to be acquired simultaneously rather than consecutively. In other words, English language proficiency is not a prerequisite to participate in mainstream classes. If English learners receive services that remove them from content area classes (such as a newcomer program or pull-out services), any academic deficits that result must be remedied so the student remains on track with his/her non-EL peers academically.

English language support services are to be provided in a way that minimizes the isolation of English learners from the general student population and encourages English learners to participate in all aspects of the school program, including advanced coursework, career and technical education, gifted and talented programs, and extracurricular activities. English learners are entitled to ESOL services until exiting by demonstrating English language proficiency on ACCESS for ELLs®.

Administration of ACCESS for ELLs®

Federal and State laws require that the English language proficiency of all English learners be measured annually as a component of accountability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). If a student is identified as an English learner, that student must be administered ACCESS for ELLs® annually until the student demonstrates English language proficiency. The Maine Department of Education defines English language proficiency as a composite proficiency level of 5.0 on ACCESS for ELLs®. Failure of all English learners to participate in the annual administration of ACCESS for ELLs® may affect ESSA Title IA funding.

State law requires that ACCESS for ELLs® be administered only by an individual trained it its administration. It is not required that this individual be an ESOL-endorsed teacher. However, only an ESOL-endorsed teacher is qualified to design, oversee, and implement an English learner’s English language support program, which includes the interpretation of ACCESS for ELLs® results. Funds under Title III of ESEA are not allowed to be used for the administration of ACCESS for ELLs®.

If parents/guardians have questions about the purpose of ACCESS for ELLs®, direct them to ACCESS for ELLs: FAQs for Parents/Guardians.

Enrollment of Immigrants and Foreign Students

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, among other factors, by public schools. SAUs are required under federal law to enroll children regardless of citizenship or immigration status (Plyler v. Doe). This applies to equally to immigrant students and international (i.e. foreign) students attending a Maine public school as an exchange student or tuition-paying student. All students, including immigrant and international students, must be screened for English learner status. Any student who is identified as an English learner, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, is entitled to ESOL services and must be administered ACCESS for ELLs® annually. International students are not exempt from Title I required state academic assessments. In Maine, recently arrived English learners who have been enrolled in a U.S. school for less than 12 months are exempt from one administration of the state’s English language arts assessment only.

SAUs are not permitted to discourage the enrollment of undocumented immigrant children by asking about their immigration status, denying enrollment to those with foreign birth certificates, or denying enrollment to children whose parents decline to provide their social security numbers or race and ethnicity information. Federal regulations allow schools to ask for children’s social security numbers to be used as student identifiers. However, they should inform parents of the purpose and that disclosure of such numbers is voluntary. Schools may not deny enrollment if parents refuse to provide a child’s social security number. SAUs may require proof that a child lives within SAU boundaries, which may include lease agreements, utility bills, or other documents. However, schools may not ask parents about a child’s immigration status to establish residency. SAUs may require proof of a child’s age, but they may not bar enrollment because a child has a foreign birth certificate or no birth certificate. See this fact sheet from the Departments of Justice and Education for more details about acceptable documentation requests.

Rights of English Learners to Education

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains the foundation of the legal rights of an English learner. Lau v. Nichols confirms that all English learners are entitled to meaningful access to the curriculum. If a parent refuses ESOL services this must be documented, but parental refusal does not release the school or SAU from its responsibility to provide meaningful education to an English learner. If an English learner cannot make academic progress without ESOL services, the student has a right to ESOL services even if a parent refuses. Parental consent is not required to administer an English language proficiency screener or ACCESS for ELLs®. Under State law SAUs are responsible for administering ACCESS for ELLs® to all English learners, regardless of parental consent (20-A M.R.S. §6209(1-A)). (See “The Legalities Surrounding ‘Opting-Out’ of Standardized Tests in Maine”.)

English Learners and Special Education

Students may qualify for and have legal entitlement to both ESOL and special education services. Appropriate screening is required to determine students’ eligibility for each type of service. Depending on a student’s learning disability and Individual Education Plan (IEP), universal testing tools or accommodations may be needed in order to measure English language proficiency. When evaluating an English learner for learning disabilities, screening must be linguistically and culturally appropriate. It is advisable to measure a student’s skills in the student’s primary language in order to clarify whether challenges are due to a learning disability or English language development.

English learners should not be placed in a special education program unless their exceptionality is well-documented and appropriate procedures for special education services have been followed. English learner status is not a disability and is not covered by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Maine special education regulations.

For English learners with IEP teams, the United States Department of Education has provided the following guidance:

“It is important that IEP Teams for ELs with disabilities include persons with expertise in second language acquisition and other professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, who understand how to differentiate between limited English proficiency and a disability. The participation of these individuals on the IEP Team is essential in order to develop appropriate academic and functional goals for the child and provide specially designed instruction and the necessary related services to meet these goals.”

English learners with learning disabilities are eligible for exit from ESOL services when they demonstrate English language proficiency, whether by achieving a composite proficiency level of 5.0 on ACCESS for ELLs® or P2 on Alternate ACCESS for ELLs®.

If you have questions or would like further information regarding serving English learners, please contact April Perkins, ESOL/Bilingual Programs, at, (207)624-6627.


Administrative Letter: Guidance for residency determination for split residence students

Administrative Letter: #10        
Policy Code: JCA
TO: Public School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: December 14, 2017
SUBJECT: Guidance for residency determination for split residence students

This guidance is offered by the Maine Department of Education (Department) to clarify the determination of residence and enrollment in the case where a student has parents or guardians who reside in two different school administrative units (SAUs).

In accordance with 20-A, MRSA, §5202(2), “A person is eligible to attend schools in the school administrative unit where the person’s parent resides.”

The Department interprets this section to mean that the student is eligible to attend school in the SAU where the student normally sleeps at night in a parent’s or guardian’s home during the time that school is in session. The statute does not recognize any other definition of residency, such as “primary residence.”

When there are two parents/guardians who do not live together but both have educational decision-making rights for a student, they may agree on a residency for the child that regularly includes some time in both residences during the school year and school week. In these cases, the parents must choose which SAU the student will attend.

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or with questions or comments about the guidance.

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: Approval for Receipt of Public Funds by Private Schools Located Outside the State of Maine

Administrative Letter: # 9
Policy Code: DDA
TO: Public School Superintendents, Private School Administrators Outside the State of Maine
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed.D., Commissioner
DATE: June 23, 2017
SUBJECT: Approval for Receipt of Public Funds by Private Schools Located Outside the State of Maine

Pursuant to 20-A M.R.S. § 2951, a private school may be approved for the receipt of public funds for tuition purposes only if it:

  1. Basic Approval. Meets the requirements for basic school approval under subchapter 1 (§§ 2901-2904);
  2. Nonsectarian. Is a nonsectarian school in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution;
  3. Incorporated. Is incorporated under the laws of the State of Maine or of the United States;
  4. Reports and audits. (repealed)
  5. Additional requirements. Complies with the reporting and auditing requirements in sections 2952 and 2953 and the requirements adopted pursuant to section 2954;
  6. Student assessment. Any school that enrolls 60% or more publicly funded students, as determined by the previous year’s October and April average enrollment, shall participate in the statewide assessment program to measure and evaluate the academic achievements of students; and
  7. Release of student records. Upon request of a school unit, release copies of all student records for students transferring from the private school to the school unit.

A review of the current procedures for the approval of private schools outside the State of Maine to receive public tuition funds revealed that these private schools were not being evaluated to determine whether they were meeting the requirements for basic school approval pursuant to section 2951(1). As a result of this finding, beginning with the 2017-18 school year, all private schools seeking approval to receive public tuition funds, both in and outside the State of Maine, will be required to meet the statutory requirements for basic school approval.  In order to ensure continuity of educational programming for students who have already made schooling arrangements for the 2017-2018 school year, the Department will allow those private schools outside of Maine that received approval in FY 17 and are on the approved list on the DOE website, to remain approved one year before they must adhere to the requirements noted above.  However, after the 2017-18 school year, they too must meet all the requirements of Title 20-A, §2951.  In addition, please remember that all private schools will still need to complete the Year-End Report of Private Schools (EF-M-240) for the 2017-18 school year to be eligible for approval to receive public tuition funds.

For information regarding the Private School Approval process, please go to, or contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, School Enrollment Specialist, at 207-624-6617 or

For information regarding the approval process for private schools to receive public tuition funds, please go to, or contact Paula Gravelle, School Finance Manager, at 207-624-6792 or

Administrative Letter: New School Approval Process, Maine Schools Update due June 15, 2017

Administrative Letter: #8
Policy Code: KLL
TO: Private School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: May 15, 2017
SUBJECT: New School Approval Process, Maine Schools Update due June 15, 2017

In accordance with 20-A M.R.S.A Chapter 117, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) requires private schools seeking approval status to be approved annually. Private schools, until and including 2017-18, have undergone a manual approval process, working with the School Enrollment Specialist.

Currently the Department is working toward moving the private school approval process to the NEO education information system by 2019. Our goal is to streamline and facilitate the entry and transfer of important and sensitive information critical to the school approval process.

Effective immediately, private schools seeking approval/renewal are required to enter their organization data (the NEO Maine Schools Update) on the same schedule as the public schools,* and complete staff data in the NEO Staff module prior to submitting the annual application/report. Please see this linked notice posted on April 12, 2017. The remainder of the Private School Approval process currently remains a manual process.

New Maine DOE School Approval web pages have been set up to fully outline the process, and link to instructions and guides for completing the required information in the NEO Maine Schools and Staff modules. The Private School Approval  web page will be the source for required private school approval annual applications/reports and checklists, and will also provide links to other Department resources related to school approval, such as certification, helpdesk, and private school approval for receipt of public funds.

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or with questions or comments about the new requirements, the new web pages, or the school approval process.

*NEO Maine Schools must be completed by June 15 of this year. As a preliminary step, in order for an organization to be updated in Maine Schools, the superintendent or chief administrator of the school must be verified in the NEO Staff Module by contacting the Helpdesk staff, 624-6896 at the Department of Education, who can also assist schools who are new to the process or in any stage of the Maine Schools NEO report completion. For School Approval, please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor.

Administrative Letter: Superintendent Transfer Agreements

Administrative Letter: #7
Policy Code: CBC
To: Superintendents, School Board Chairs, and Private School Head Administrators
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed.D., Acting Commissioner
Date: March 15, 2017
Re: Superintendent Transfer Agreements

Last year, the Maine Department of Education sent out a letter to Superintendents entitled Clarification of Commissioner’s Review of Superintendent Agreements. As we move closer to the 2017-2018 school year and we begin to see more Superintendent Transfer Agreement requests, it may be helpful to review the letter again carefully. I also want to provide some additional guidance to address questions and clarify issues about the Superintendent Transfer request process at the local level.
Specifically, Superintendent Transfer Agreements are designed to facilitate a student transfer from one school administrative unit (SAU) to another for the student’s best interest. Per Title 20-A MRSA Section 5205(6):

A. Two superintendents may approve the transfer of a student from one school administrative unit to another if:

(1) They find that a transfer is in the student’s best interest; and

(2) The student’s parent approves.

The superintendents shall notify the commissioner of any transfer approved under this paragraph. If either of the superintendents decides not to approve the transfer, that superintendent shall provide to the parent of the student requesting transfer under this paragraph a written description of the basis of that superintendent’s determination. [2013, c. 456, §1 (AMD).

SAUs often use a form to collect transfer request information, and to deliver decisions. The Department has created sample forms which may be adopted as part of the Superintendent transfer agreement process (optional):

Please feel free to use the forms as templates. These forms model the type of information that should be requested and generated as Superintendents and parents work through the details of a transfer.

When communicating with parents about required documentation for transfer request submission to the Superintendent, SAUs may advise parents to write a letter supporting their request and to include supporting documentation and compelling reasons for the request. Parents should be advised not to submit anything that they would not want shared with the Department or the State Board of Education, should the request be denied and subsequently appealed.

When responding to requests, it is important to communicate the basis for the Superintendent’s decision, based on the student’s best interest.

If the transfer is agreed to by both sending and receiving Superintendents, the student becomes a resident of the receiving SAU for one school year. Please note that agreements may not be subject to revocation, rescission, or contingencies for the school year. These students must be afforded the same rights and responsibilities as students who reside in the SAU.

Under a transfer, the receiving unit, by accepting the student as a resident of the receiving unit, is accepting full fiscal responsibility for the student just as with any other resident of the SAU, including fiscal responsibility for special education services. Special education services must be provided to transfer students by the receiving SAU at no cost to the parent and the cost of these services may not be billed to the sending SAU.

When possible, requests should be made and decisions rendered in an expedient manner, and preferably prior to the start of the school year.  In order to properly account for SAU fiscal responsibilities, it is recommended that the transfer be in effect for the October 1st student count. For students who have been in ongoing attendance and where tuition has been paid by the parent, tuition adjustments will be effective as of the date of parent request to the Superintendent.

Thank you for rendering informed and thoughtful Superintendent Transfer Agreement guidance and decisions that are in the best interest of Maine students.

For more information regarding this letter, please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor at or (207) 624-6617.

Administrative Letter: Rescheduling and Requesting Waivers for Storm Days

Administrative Letter: #6
Policy Code: ID
To: Superintendents, School Board Chairs, and Private School Head Administrators
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed.D., Acting Commissioner
Date: March 6, 2017
Re: Rescheduling and Requesting Waivers for Storm Days

As many of you are well aware, this winter has resulted in above normal snowfall amounts and many school administrative units have had to exceed the number of storm days that were originally planned for in the school calendar. This has resulted in concerns about meeting the regulations pertaining to the length of the school year. Below we have provided a link to the regulations pertaining to rescheduling and requesting waivers for storm days, along with a brief summary that we hope will help administrative leaders as they make decisions about how to make up the lost days. In Chapter 125: Basic Approval Standards: Public Schools and School Administrative Units Section 6.01, subsections C (1) and (2), regulations state that the Commissioner may waive the minimum school year requirements upon submission of a written request from the school board to the Commissioner, and that waivers will be granted only after school officials have exhausted all reasonable avenues for making up lost school days, and only in extraordinary circumstances. As a reminder, the requirement is 175 days for students in grades K-11, and 170 days for high school seniors. Acceptable efforts to reschedule classes include the following:

  • Rescheduling or shortening scheduled vacation
  • Postponing the scheduled school closing date
  • Conducting classes on weekends
  • In addition, districts sometimes choose to revert a scheduled teacher in-service day to a student instructional day

Please note, under Chapter 125 Section 6.02, subsection C, school administrative units may, with the permission of the Commissioner, schedule a one hour extension of the school day for up to 25 days in a school year; 5 one hour extensions may be counted as an additional school day. Please see the Waivers for Snow Days Frequently Asked Questions provided on Maine DOE’s website for more details, including defining/calculating an instructional day. Waivers should be submitted in writing from the school board or its designee to the Commissioner’s Office at the Maine Department of Education [per Chapter 125 Section 6.01 subsection C (2)]. In addition, please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, School Approval Services, by email or by phone 624-6617, of the intent to file a waiver request as soon as possible. We all realize how valuable instructional time is for our students. Thank you for your efforts to ensure that your students have the opportunity to learn for the intended full school calendar year.