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Seeking Public Comment to waive requirements related to assessment, chronic absenteeism, accountability identifications and accountability components within Maine’s Model of School Support

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is seeking a one-year waiver pursuant to §8401(b) from requirements within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015) from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). The U.S. Department of Education requires state educational agencies, when seeking waivers from statutory or regulatory requirements, solicit and respond to public comment on the request and provide evidence of the available comment period. This 15-day public comment period from August 11, 2020 until August 26, 2020 waives requirements related to chronic absenteeism, accountability identifications and accountability components within Maine’s Model of School Support.

Maine’s Model of School Support contained within Maine’s ESSA state plan, focuses on supporting and assisting schools and educators experiencing challenges. The Maine DOE is working diligently to continue supporting Maine’s schools during this pandemic of COVID-19. Maine’s Model of School Support is immediately impacted by the Department’s waiver request.

Requirements from which Maine is seeking a waiver include:

  • Assessment requirements in section 1111(b)(2): the requirements to administer all required assessments in school year 2020-2021.
  • Accountability and school identification requirements in sections 1111(c)(4) and 1111(d)(2)(C)-(D): the requirements that a State annually meaningfully differentiate all public schools and the requirements to identify schools for comprehensive and targeted support and improvement and additional targeted support and improvement based on data from the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Report card provisions (ESSA Dashboard) related to certain assessments and accountability in section 1111(h) based on data from the 2020-2021 school year, namely:
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(i) (accountability system description).
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(ii) (assessment results).
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iii)(I) (other academic indicator results).
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(iv) (English language proficiency assessment results).
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(v) (school quality or student success indicator results).
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(vi) (progress toward meeting long-terms goals and measurements of interim progress).
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(vii) (percentage of students assessed and not assessed).
    • Section 1111(h)(1)(C)(xi) (number and percentage of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities taking an alternate assessment).
    • Section 1111(h)(2)(C) with respect to all waived requirements in section 1111(h)(1)(C) as well as 1111(h)(2)(C)(i)-(ii)(information showing how students in a local educational agency (LEA) and each school, respectively, achieved on the academic assessments compared to students in the State and LEA).

Federal program affected by the requested waiver

Maine’s Model of School Supports identifications will be impacted due to the following reasons:

  • Exclusion of the chronic absenteeism indicator

Governor Janet Mills declared a state of Civil Emergency on Sunday March 15, 2020. As a result, schools were recommended to cease traditional classroom-based instruction as soon as practical and for the duration of our state of Civil Emergency. Since that time, the state of Civil Emergency has been extended a further four (4) times with the current state of Civil Emergency due to expire on September 5, 2020.  Maine schools are accessing necessary health indicators, consulting federal and state CDC guidance to determine an appropriate and safe approach to starting the 2020-2021 school year.

  • Excluding the 95% participation rate within the academic achievement indicator

Given the varying modalities of instruction to be implemented within the state of Maine, the challenges posed related to equity for students, and the unavailability of in-person assessment at this time, the assessment platforms cannot be proctored to ensure the validity of assessment implementation.

  • Exclusion of additional school identifications and subsequent supports to schools

As a result of excluding the chronic absenteeism indicator and not utilizing the 95% participation rate for academic achievement, Maine’s Model of School Support will not have a complete data set and will be unable to identify additional schools eligible to receive supports.

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