New Visual Tool Available to Help Communicate Purpose of the MEAs

With the upcoming MEA testing window opening soon, the Maine Department of Education has created a visual tool to help schools and districts when communicating with families and communities about the Maine Educational Assessments (MEAs). The tool outlines why Maine administers a state assessment to students, what scores are used for, and why participation in the MEAs is important.

The tool is available as a graphic visual and as a text-only accessible version:

Why Participation Matters (Graphic Visual – PDF)

Why Participation Matters (Text Version – PDF)

For further questions, please visit Maine DOE Maine Comprehensive Assessment System Website.

 

Administrative Letter: Clarification on Requirement to Ensure Parents’ Meaningful Access to IEP Information

Administrative Letter: #23
Policy Code:  BGE
To: Public School Administrators, Special Ed. Directors, EL Coordinators/Directors, and ESOL Teachers
From: Pender Makin, Commissioner
Date:  March 12, 2019
Subject: Clarification on Requirement to Ensure Parents’ Meaningful Access to IEP Information

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees parents’ right to receive communication from their children’s schools in a language they can understand. The US Department of Education has provided guidance (PDF) clarifying that, “State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) have flexibility in determining what mix of oral and written translation services may be necessary and reasonable for communicating the required information to parents with limited English proficiency.”

For parents of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), LEAs must ensure that parents are able to understand the proceedings of the IEP meeting and access the IEP document as needed.

In a 2007 letter (PDF) to Conway Public Schools in Arkansas, the Office of Special Education (OSEP) indicated that, “while providing written translations of IEP documents is not required under IDEA, we believe in some circumstances it may help to show that a parent has been fully informed of the services his or her child will be receiving.”

A 2016 Dear Colleague Letter (PDF) from OSEP states that, “Under Title VI, all vital documents, including a student’s IEP, must be accessible to Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents, but that does not necessarily mean that all vital documents must be translated for every language in the district. For example, a timely and complete oral interpretation or translated summary of a vital document might suffice in some circumstances. A district must, however, be prepared to provide timely and complete translated IEPs to provide meaningful access to the IEP and the parental rights that attach to it. This is because a parent needs meaningful access to the IEP not just during the IEP meeting, but also across school years to monitor the child’s progress and ensure that IEP services are provided.”

This notice does not serve as legal advice, and LEAs should consult legal staff and/or the Office for Civil Rights for guidance pertaining to their specific contexts.

The Maine Department of Education would like to acknowledge and thank Maine’s special education directors, administrators, and educators for ensuring federal and state regulations for educating students with special needs are met, and for their ongoing dedication to the students and families that these processes serve.

For further information about translation/interpretation please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III at (207) 624-6627 or april.perkins@maine.gov. For further information about supporting students with an IEP, please contact Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services at (207) 624-6713.

Press Release: Nominations Now Open for Maine Volunteer Roll of Honor Awards

Volunteers are the heartbeat of Maine and it is volunteer recognition season.  Nominations are currently being accepted for the Governor’s Service Awards, Maine Volunteer Roll of Honor and Young Maine Volunteer Roll of Honor.

Since 1987, the Governor’s Awards for Service and Volunteerism have celebrated and recognized the role of citizen volunteers in the success and vitality of Maine communities.  At the same time, the awards seek to inspire others to be active in civic life and follow in the footsteps of those recognized.

Teachers and coaches are encouraged to submit nominations for student groups if each member of the group meets the 50-hour minimum requirement. Please note that any hours of volunteer time completed for graduation can also be counted towards the minimum obligation for this award program.

Awardees will be honored at the statewide Roll of Honor Recognition Ceremony that will be held at the Messalonskee High School in the J. Duke Albanese Performing Arts Center on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Nomination submissions must be sent electronically by or before the deadline date of Friday, March 15, 2019.  For information on how to submit nominations, visit the Volunteer Maine website.

This program is administered by the Maine Commission for Community Service, which strives to build capacity and sustainability in Maine’s volunteer and service communities by funding programs, developing managers of volunteers and service-learning practitioners, raising awareness of sector issues, and promoting service as a strategy. For more information about the Maine Commission for Community Service, visit their website.

Guidance Regarding Automated Translation/Interpretation Services

As Maine districts have experienced increasing numbers of students and parents who speak languages other than English, there has also been an increase in the availability of machine or automated translation/interpretation software and apps. While these tools may seem like a convenient (and oftentimes free) way to meet a district’s civil rights obligations for communicating with parents, they have not yet reached the level of accuracy necessary to serve as a substitute for a qualified human translator/interpreter. Meaningful communication with parents, including parents whose children have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), is not only a civil rights requirement, but it also serves to strengthen family engagement and promote positive relationships between families and schools.

A 2015 guidance document from the US Department of Justice and US Department of Education clarifies that even a bilingual person without appropriate training cannot be used by a school to translate/interpret for parents. Whether for the vital communications listed in this guidance document or for more casual interactions, best practice is always to utilize trained professionals, such as through a phone interpretation service or translation/interpretation agency.

For a list of translation/interpretation providers, please refer to the Maine Department of Education website. For parent notices required under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Maine Department of Education has partnered with TransACT to give districts free access to notices in 17 languages.

For further information about translation/interpretation please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III at (207) 624-6627 or april.perkins@maine.gov. For further information about supporting students with an IEP, please contact Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services at (207) 624-6713.

PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine Department of Education’s Position on School Mascots and Logos

Because our schools must provide safe, inclusive, and respectful learning environments, and because schools teach many lessons by example, DOE urges schools to refrain from using mascots and logos that depict Native American tribes, individuals, customs, or traditions. For information about the negative impact of using such mascots/logos:

https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots

http://www.changethemascot.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/DrFriedmanReport.pdf

While we recognize that DOE does not have jurisdiction over local decisions like these, we encourage schools and communities to consider the impact of promoting symbols and stereotypes that marginalize individuals or groups of people.

The DOE is working to enhance our office of Student Supports with additional staff and resources to assist Maine schools and districts in the development and strengthening of practices that promote cultural competence and reduce bias and inequity.