Inside Maine’s Race to the Top application, Part 5

Inside Maine’s Race to the Top application, Part 5

June 17, 2010 Posted by Steve Bowen - No Comments

The second major section of the Race to the Top application relates to “standards and assessments,” and while this section of the application is rather long, there isn’t a whole lot of note to report, frankly.

In fact, most of Maine’s response to the first part of  this section of the application describes the various interstate consortia the state is a part of, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The New England Comprehensive Assessment System, which runs the new standardized testing regime the state uses, the NECAP.
  • The Common Core State Standards Initiative, a 48-state effort to develop common academic standards, parts of which Maine will later adopt in place of the state’s existing Learning Results.
  • The American Diploma Project, another standards benchmarking effort.
  • The Career-Technical Education Consortium, an attempt to benchmark industry-related science and technical standards.
  • The New England Secondary School Consortium, which is working on high school redesign.

The “Next Generation Learning partnership” is described as “our newest initiative,” but it is hard to tell what exactly it is or does, as the paragraph describing it has to be the most poorly written one I’ve read so far:

“In our newest initiative, The Next Generation Learning partnership (NxGL), there are six lab states, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Partnership’ work is aligned with the work and goals of the Race to the Top. States and participating districts will work to adopt practices aligned with the Common Core in each of the lab sites. SAU #15 (Gray/New Gloucester) and the State are embarking on a system transformation at the state, district, and local levels. The emphasis is on the next generation of education not the current generation. Key is the implementation of educational systems that center on the student experience with measures of progress. To be selected, out of 25 applications, we had to demonstrate concrete evidence, through a self assessment, that Maine was prepared to implement innovative practices.”

Unbelievably, we sent this to the United States Department of Education.

With the first part of this section of the application focused on common standards, the second part focuses on assessments, and, like the section before it, is basically a list of the various assessment consortia of which Maine is a part:

  • The aforementioned New England Common Assessment Program, the NECAP test that now takes the place of the old MEA test.
  • The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (now under the leadership of former commissioner Susan Gendron), which is working on developing an assessment regime to accompany the coming Common Core standards.
  • The State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS), which, according to the application, is “supporting assessment and accountability work through that Council of Chief State School Officers.” The SCASS is evidently made up of sub-consortia, there of which Maine is a member of: Accountability and Systems Reporting (ASR), Career and Technical Assessment Consortium (CTAC) and Science Education Assessment (SCIENCE)

Well, if we get points for being joiners, we’re in good shape. I just wonder how future Education Committees and district School Boards will deal with the fact that the state’s learning standards and the assessments we use to measure student mastery of them are to be developed somewhere far from here. If discussion at the recent Education Committee meeting was any indication, the committee, at least, don’t seem to have realized that “common” standards and assessments are developed by someone other than them.

If the first two parts of this section of the application are somewhat lacking, the third part, dealing with the implementation of the Common Core standards, is the strongest section of the application yet. It is a well crafted and heavily detailed explanation of the state’s implementation plan, including proposed completion dates, and brings together various elements from across the larger reform agenda, from standards and assessment to teacher training, early learning, and Advanced Placement. It is an solid piece of work and the first evidence yet that someone at the Department has been thinking long and hard about how we’ll actually do this.

So, overall, a bit of a mixed bag in this section of the application.  It may be news to some, I suppose, that we have essentially agreed to adopt standards and student assessments in common with other states, but it is more notable to me that the Department seems to have developed a relatively comprehensive plan to actually do it.  If only the first parts of the section had been more skillfully written…