Maine Department Of Education Pauses Essay Component of State Assessment to Gain Educator Feedback 

The development of writing skills is essential for student learning, future employment, communication, and critical thinking, and it is a key area of focus for Maine educators and the Maine Department of Education. While writing standards are assessed in the State’s English Language Arts (ELA) assessments, Maine had opted to include an additional essay component at the grade 3-8 span, exceeding federal assessment requirements.  

The eMPowerME essay component, developed in partnership with Cognia (formally known as Measured Progress), involved field testing, with full implementation in Spring 2018.  Unfortunately, a surprising number of students received a “no score” designation for their essay, raising significant concerns around the quality of the assessment instrument and scoring. We became increasingly concerned when we received word that for the Spring 2019 assessment, the number of “no score” essays dramatically increased.  

The Department was faced with two options:  

  1. Contract with our assessment vendor, Cognia, to provide additional professional development and coaching regarding the construction of writing to meet the criteria of the scoring rubric or;  
  2. Develop a new essay assessment that meets the needs of the students and educators in the State.  

The Department has determined that option 2, developing an essay assessment that meets the needs of students and the State, is in the best interest of our students. Recognizing the high preponderance of non-scorable essays, the Maine DOE has decided to pause the administration of an essay component during the 2019-2020 school year, in order to review factors contributing to these results. The Department of Education plans to refine an essay portion of the assessment, with the assistance of Maine educators.   

As a result, the following next steps will be taken:  

  • The essay component of the ELA eMPowerME assessment will be removed for the 2020 assessment administration.  
  • The essay scores from the 2019 ELA eMPowerME assessment administration will be removed from student total assessment ELA scores. The essay will not contribute to the assessment data used for accountability related purposes.  
  • Essay data, where available, will be accessible to educators through Maine’s Assessment and Accountability Reporting System (MAARS) via the confidential portal and reported to parents on the students Individual Student Report (ISR).  
  • The Department will re-engage educators in the development of a meaningful essay writing assessment, and re-examine writing.  

The work completed by the ELA standards review and writing teams will be instrumental in informing the work moving forward. Over the coming weeks and months, the Department of Education will be reaching out to educators to collaboratively determine next steps.  

Principals Roundtable Series: It Doesn’t Have to be Lonely at the Top

This roundtable series is being hosted by New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS). 

October 28, 2019 – Chace Community Center at Colby College, Waterville, ME
January 27, 2020 – Chace Community Center at Colby College, Waterville, ME
March 8, 2020** – Omni Hotel, Providence, RI

Schedule: (schedule is subject to change)
8:30 am Registration, Coffee and light pastries
9:00 am – 2:00 pm Workshop with lunch included
** Workshop in Providence, RI will run from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Back by popular demand: A Principal’s Roundtable with Dr. Monte Selby and Chris Toy

Middle Level building leaders often work alone with minimal peer support. We lack sources of informed objective feedback, brainstorming, problem solving and idea sharing. Join other dynamic New England middle level principals in October, January, and March for days dedicated to addressing current challenges facing you and your middle level peers. Collaborate with fellow building principals in a confidential, collegial setting to voice issues, explore solutions, offer practical support, share insights, and take home best-practice ideas for your school. Each session is designed to create a network of peers supporting one another’s success as middle level leaders.

Chris Toy and Dr. Monte Selby are experienced facilitators who will keep the conversation moving, highlight solutions, and offer resources on current problem solving and leadership strategies to adapt for use in your building.

Download the registration form here (PDF). Please contact the NELMS office at (978) 557-9311 or e-mail for additional information or questions.

Maine Department of Education 2019 First Regular Session Legislative Summary Available

The Maine Department of Education has prepared a summary of major laws related to education that were enacted by the First Regular Session of the 129th Maine Legislature. This information may prove helpful to school and district administrators and educators when planning for the 2019-20 school year.
For each education bill, the summary lists the provisions, effective date, and action required by the bill.
A law indicated as an “emergency” is a law that was passed by a two-thirds vote of the Maine Legislature; emergency legislation takes effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.  For non-emergency laws passed during the First Regular Session, the effective date is September 19, 2019, unless otherwise noted.

The summary Microsoft Word document, as well as prior years’ legislative summaries, can be downloaded from the Maine Department of Education’s  Newly Enacted Legislation by the 129th Maine Legislature First Regular Session 

If you would like to read the laws and resolutions, including original bills and testimony provided, check out the webpage for the Maine State Legislature!

For more information or questions, please Karen Kusiak, Legislative Affairs at


Greely High School Ed Tech Awarded Local High Honor

Greely High School Special Education, Education Technician Eliza Miller was honored recently at an award ceremony at MSAD 51 for being named Employee of the Year.

Recognized for her one-on-one work with students, her support for teachers, and her willingness to jump in and volunteer outside of the classroom, Eliza was praised by her colleagues during the ceremony.

“Without Eliza Miller, I could not serve my students as a teacher in the best ways I possibly can.  Because she cares so much about the special ed students and pushes them to succeed to the best of their ability and shows this by collaborating, and sharing invaluable tools with staff (as well as students). Her years of experience and positivity leads the students to benefit hugely from her structured approach and optimism – which wears off on the students beyond the classroom.” 

“She truly exemplifies the phrase, ‘going above and beyond,’ both in the world of education, and in her compassion and humanity in general.” 

Educational technicians play a pivotal role in the classroom by providing supportive educational services for students in K-12 schools and instruction for children with disabilities. They specialize in individualized or small group guided instruction, assistance in special education and the regular classrooms, and also help manage student behavior. Education technicians are a critical part of each and every school in Maine and to our education system as a whole.

Being an education technician is an enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding profession that often-times blossoms into a life-long career as an educator. To learn more about how to become an education technician in Maine, please visit Maine DOE’s Certification web page where you will find links to information about requirements by ed tech level, how to complete the certification application process, fingerprinting, and how to check application status. For further information contact our certification team at 207-624-6603 or

Maine Continues to Align Special Education Programming with Federal Standards; No Extra Technical Assistance Required

The results of an annual review by the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has yielded that Maine does not currently require any extra technical assistance from the federal government for its special education programming.

Maine’s Special Education Programing was highlighted recently for meeting federal requirements for serving the needs of children with disabilities. The newly released report is an extension of that review and further evaluates the work of Maine’s special education services and outcomes.

The annual review is based on data from the Maine Department of Education and local schools, in addition to an in-depth evaluation of state need. This is the first year that OSEP has not required that Maine receive specialized technical assistance, beyond what is offered to all states.

View the report (PDF)

The new federal status can be attributed to much of the work that has been underway for the past few years by education professionals around the state, including special education directors, teachers, education technicians, and school and district administrators, in addition to the work of the Maine Department of Education to identify areas of growth and provide additional support in those areas. Improvement can also be credited to the specialized technical assistance that has been provided by OSEP in previous years.

The Maine Department of Education would like to thank all of the education professionals in Maine, especially those who work in special education and have spent pain-staking amounts of time on the necessary paperwork, reports, meetings, and plans that help our state not only to meet these stringent requirements, but also for taking on the ever changing and important work of serving the special needs of children with disabilities. Your hard work and determination is vital to our education system and to our state.