For the third consecutive school year, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) is seeking waivers from the federal government for some accountability and assessment reporting requirements.
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, states are required to submit their academic standards to the federal DOE and regularly submit data showing they are meeting those standards.
During the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, the federal government offered waivers to schools for some ESSA requirements, including assessments and accountability.
Maine received approval for waivers in both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.
The state is seeking a similar waiver for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year and is looking to have the implementation of its accountability system and report card provisions related to assessments based on data from the 2020-2021 school year waived.
Maine also changed standardized tests during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state switched from the eMPowerME assessment, which it used from 2015 to 2019, to the MAP Growth assessment in the spring of 2019, when testing resumed after a pause because of pandemic disruptions. The change in assessment is one of the reasons the state is requesting waivers for the 2022-2023 school year.
According to the waiver request form the state intends to send to the federal DOE, the transition in math and English Language Arts (ELA) assessments means Maine can’t meet its academic achievement goals because they were designed under an accountability model based on the previous tests.
“The transition in math and ELA assessments for most of the student population does not allow for comparison of data and determination of student growth,” Maine DOE noted on its waiver request form.
The department also stated that it will use the new testing data to set new goals beginning in summer 2023.
“Maine will report the participation rate for all [school administrative units]. Standard setting of the new assessment is scheduled for summer 2023 and will populate subsequent baselines to establish goals.”
Maine DOE also reports that it will continue to use its online dashboard to publicly report data related to academic achievement and student populations. The only dataset that will be affected is for accountability identifications.
The agency says that the granting of the waiver “will continue to advance student achievement as all Maine students continue to receive instruction and participate in a variety of local and state assessments.”
Further, Maine DOE says the waivers are necessary to ensure school identification isn’t negatively impacted before new standards are set.
“This ongoing relationship between curriculum, instruction, and assessment, provides the opportunity for schools to continue focusing on student (group) achievement and to identify and support students (groups) who may be experiencing challenges. Identification of schools at this time – before we have completed the standard-setting process – could lead to errors in school identification. Flaws in the identification of schools impacts the credibility of not only Maine’s Model of School Support but the Maine DOE,” the agency said in a public notice.
Maine DOE will continue to support identified schools, which will allow the state to “provide continuous support to schools and classroom leaders” during the upcoming school year, ensure trust between the state and schools continues, and avoid new schools being identified during the transition between assessments when they lack “the ability to develop relevant, realistic, and achievable goals.”
The Maine DOE is currently seeking public comment related to the requested waivers, as is required by federal law. The public comment period runs through July 11.