Maine Taps Private Partner for State Testing

"eMPower Maine," that state's new name for its educational assessments, will be developed by Measured Progress for grades 3-8. The non-profit organization, which has been working with Maine since 1985 in numerous education testing and reporting areas, will be developing the state's summative assessments for mathematics and English language arts and literacy. Currently, it delivers the state science assessment.

The assessment at the high school level will be the SAT, provided at no personal cost to all third-year high school students under the same contract.

The initial contract is worth $4.14 million and includes subcontracts with Measured Progress partners, eMetric to deliver the test online and the College Board to administer the SAT. After the first year, Maine has the option to renew the contract for up to nine additional one-year terms.

Maine's Department of Education had issued a request for proposal to which five organizations had responded. An assessment task force made up of 20 educators took input from people across the state as part of the review process.

Although the agreement is just being put in place, Measured Progress has been developing the assessment system that will be adapted and used by Maine "for many months already," the Department of Ed said in a statement.

"It's important to note, there is no option to delay or take a year off from testing," said Acting Education Commissioner William Beardsley, in a statement. "Annual testing is mandated by both state and federal law."

eMPower Maine will use a variety of testing item types and will provide "some comparability" to assessments issued in other states. The new program will also include a "predictive connection," which, according to Measured Progress, is based on the same foundational research as the SAT assessments. In fact, results of the eMPower Maine assessment at grade 8 will be linked to the SAT scale to offer an early indicator of college and career readiness.

The new agreement directly addresses one area of sensitivity for state residents: the amount of time spent testing students. The average time for a student to complete the 2016 spring assessment will be one percent of total classroom instruction time, the department estimated. In the lower grades the testing time will be six hours compared to 12 hours spent in previous years. Last year many high school students spent a total of 12 hours taking both a statewide assessment and the optional SAT. This coming year, they'll spend no more than four hours taking just the SAT.

Maine was a member of Smarter Balanced. However, that set of assessments was only issued to its students one time. Based on poor results and subsequent parental outcry, the Maine legislature voted in May to end the state's participation in that assessment consortium.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.