• Maine has an innovative vision of a proficiency-based, student-centered system that supports personalized learning and empowered students who take charge of their own learning. And the state’s charge is clear: By 2030, 90 percent of Maine’s students will graduate college and career ready.


  • Maine’s requirement for all schools to develop a school-improvement plan and link it to key principles of school success is a strong approach to needs assessment and planning at the school level. The integration of a multitiered system of support approach, differentiated student interventions, and monitoring by schools has real promise.


  • Maine plans to identify for targeted support schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent of each subgroup. Although the state has not yet provided data on the implications of this proposal, it seems like a reasonable approach to targeting resources for low-performing subgroups.




  • Much of Maine’s plan is still incomplete, including final accountability indicators and weighting and more complete description of its school identification plan.


  • Although Maine’s long-term priorities appear strong, it missed opportunities to embed those throughout its ESSA plan. For example, the school-improvement system and planning process for schools in need of supports doesn’t align with the state’s expressed priorities, such as learner-centered instruction, comprehensive community/school supports, equitable funding, and new technologies.


  • It is also unclear how Maine’s vision of a proficiency-based assessment system will be implemented statewide and how that will factor into school accountability.


  • If the state intends for 90 percent of students to be college- and career-ready, it would make sense for Maine to include an indicator of college and career readiness in its accountability system.


  • Overall, each section of the plan reads as discrete and not aligned to the state’s articulated priorities in a meaningful, integrated way.


Click through the tabs on the left to see how Maine scored in each category.



Maine’s vision is clear: By 2030, 90 percent of Maine’s students will graduate college and career ready.


The state aims to develop a proficiency-based system where students demonstrate their readiness for college and careers to graduate from high school. While this vision will be implemented through locally determined requirements, the state goal is to move to a student-centered, personalized learning approach to education that empowers student ownership of learning by design. A number of the state’s districts have established proficiency-based graduation requirements that reflect college and career readiness and have developed multiple pathways for students to meet those requirements.


Maine’s measures of interim progress conflict with its long-term vision.


Maine includes long-term academic goals and measures of interim progress for English language arts, mathematics, and English language proficiency. But while its long-term vision aims for 90 percent of its students graduating college and career ready by 2030, its interim targets in English and math stop short of that. For example, by 2030 it expects only 76 percent of its white students to be proficient in English, and less than 60 percent of its students with disabilities and English learners.


Maine intends to update its achievement targets once it has new data at the end of June 2017, but it should also reconcile its long-term vision with its interim performance targets.


The state has included a goal of 90 percent by 2030 for both the four-year and the extended-year cohort rates.


Neither of these goals appears very ambitious. Since the current four- and six-year rates are 87 and 89 percent, respectively, Maine is shooting for only 1-3 percentage point gains over the next 13 years.


Additionally, it’s not clear why Maine set the same goal for both the four-year and the six-year graduation rates, since more students could be expected to graduate with the additional time.



Maine is implementing high standards — but has implemented three different assessments in the past three years.


While the Common Core State Standards are aligned to college- and career-readiness expectations, Maine’s three assessments in three years does not suggest strong implementation of the standards or indicate overall alignment of the state’s system.


Maine’s new proficiency-based high school diploma will be phased in beginning with the class of 2021.


The proficiency-based diploma is intended to ensure all students graduate high school having demonstrated mastery of the state’s academic content standards so that they may succeed in postsecondary education or work. However, there are multiple pathways for demonstrating proficiency/mastery, and it is unclear how there will be consistency across all of them. In addition, Maine has not aligned the way it will measure proficiency for diploma purposes and the way it does so for accountability purposes.


Maine has used the SAT as its high school accountability assessment for a number of years.


On one hand, the SAT is familiar to students and families, and it is recognized at colleges all across the country. On the other hand, while offering the SAT as the state’s official test offers many benefits, some of those may not extend fully to all students who require accommodations.


Maine may consider adding a science assessment to its accountability system.


Adding science achievement to the accountability system would be a way for the state to help counteract curriculum narrowing.


Lastly, Maine should strengthen its plan by ensuring that it has a process in place to meet the 1 percent cap on alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.



Maine proposes to use a simple list of indicators.


While it has identified academic achievement, progress, graduation rate, English proficiency, and “consistent attendance” as its indicators, the plan lacks detail on why certain measures were chosen and how they will be implemented.


Maine is still exploring other college- and career-ready measures.


Maine indicates that one of its long-term goals is for 90 percent of students to be college- and career-ready by 2030, yet the state includes no indicators of college and career readiness in its accountability system and does not make a clear case for why the indicators it has selected are related to college and career readiness. Instead, the state is still exploring other college and career ready measures and the necessary data sources and definitions needed to measure them in a valid, reliable way.


Maine also indicates that one high priority for the state is moving toward a proficiency-based diploma by 2021 — yet nothing in the accountability system is directly related to this priority yet.


Maine will consider adding indicators to the system in the near future.


Since Maine already administers and reports results from a science assessment, the state might want to consider adding science achievement to the accountability system.


Moreover, it would be helpful if the state outlined a detailed process by which it would review data, consult with stakeholders, and begin to pilot new indicators for its accountability system.



Maine proposes a weighting scheme that provides a different balance of proficiency and growth depending on the school’s prior achievement.


Schools with higher achievement would have a stronger emphasis on proficiency, while those with lower achievement would have a stronger weighting on growth. While this approach may have some positive benefits, it would implicitly set up different expectations for different types of schools, and it could be a challenge to communicate clearly to educators, parents, and other stakeholders.


Maine’s scaled approach appears to conflict with another place in the state’s plan, where Maine proposes to base 42 percent of an elementary school’s grade on achievement and 38 percent on growth.


Maine pairs a clear, transparent measure of student achievement with a relatively simple growth model.


While the model measures where students advance performance levels over time, there are many uncertainties about what Maine intends to do.



Maine will identify 5 percent of each subgroup as schools in need of targeted support.


While it does not appear that Maine will be incorporating subgroup scores directly into its school-rating system, it does plan to identify 5 percent of each subgroup (e.g., the 5 percent of schools with the lowest-performing subgroup of black students, the 5 percent of schools with the lowest-performing subgroup of students with disabilities, etc.) as schools in need of targeted support. The state has not yet provided data behind this approach.


Maine has established a minimum subgroup threshold size of 10 students.


Maine is a largely rural state with small schools and little racial and ethnic diversity and low numbers of English learners. To include the performance of subgroups for as many schools as possible, the state has established a minimum subgroup threshold size of 10 students. To strengthen its plan, Maine might consider using multiple years of data in the accountability system to capture more subgroups and lessen the volatility with small sample sizes.


The state will lower summative ratings if schools have consistently underperforming subgroups of students.


Maine indicates that schools that are identified for targeted support because of low-performing subgroups will receive a lower summative rating than they would have received if they did not have consistently underperforming subgroups of students. While this will certainly bring attention to underperforming subgroups in those schools, it is important that there be some mechanism for ensuring that underperforming subgroups are not masked in high-performing schools.


Maine proposes to include former English language learners and students with disabilities as part of those subgroups and will track their performance for two years after they exit.


Since exiting students tend to have higher performance, the state should monitor its data to ensure it is not masking the performance of students who are still receiving services.



With only a skeletal conceptual framework, it’s hard to evaluate Maine’s school plan.


Once it settles on a final weighting, the state will place schools into one of four categories, but Maine does not specify how those categories will overlay with the methodologies for identifying schools for improvement.


Maine also does not describe how it will identify schools with low graduation rates for comprehensive support status.



Maine has a relatively clear school-improvement planning process.


The process may help schools with developing needs assessments and strategies, and its Transformational Leaders Network, while not described in detail, could be promising.


Maine has a very minimal description of interventions and supports.


It also does not differentiate for comprehensive support schools vs. targeted support schools. Despite referring to Tier III and Tier II supports separately, the actual supports appear to be very similar and refer only to general supports and mentors and coaches. It is not clear whether these supports will be sufficient to meet the challenges faced by those schools.


Maine provides very little information about how the state will ensure evidence-based interventions, how it would support districts in choosing appropriate interventions, and whether the state has the capacity to evaluate intervention choices, beyond a requirement that districts describe these interventions.


Even in cases where the state can direct school improvement activities, the interventions outlined in the plan are far from rigorous; these schools will receive “increased face-to-face school improvement coaching support, increased district support in relation to targeted professional development, and increased financial resources.”


Maine also appears to intend to provide less than the minimum award of $50,000 in school-improvement funds to each school.


Maine should consider funding comprehensive support schools at a higher level consistent with their needs. Without aggressive action for schools that continue to struggle, it is very unlikely the proposed supports would be sufficient to dramatically change a school’s trajectory.

Exiting Improvement Status


Maine outlines exit criteria, but it has not provided much detail.


For both comprehensive and targeted support schools to exit status, they must “maintain performance goals” above the identification criteria for two consecutive years, but the state’s plan does not specify what this would mean, nor has it demonstrated whether these criteria would be sufficient to show sustained improvements.


Continuous Improvement


Maine outlines a monitoring process, but provides few specifics.

Aside from outlining a process for monitoring the implementation and progress of school and district improvement efforts, it does not specify how it will incorporate monitoring the impact of the accountability system itself into an ongoing process of continuous improvement. While Maine describes that it will continue to convene its 22-member Advisory Workgroup and its sub-workgroups quarterly, the state does not mention any other continued consultation or engagement of stakeholders following the development of the plan.


To improve this area, the state could articulate a plan to engage a broader group of stakeholders at key points in time, particularly as it develops its accountability system, as well as articulate a plan to evaluate how the state will determine if its plan is successful. This could include key data or metrics that will be tracked over time, or a plan to administer surveys, desk monitoring, or other protocols to collect data on implementation from districts, schools, and other stakeholders.

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