AUGUSTA, Maine — In a cost-saving measure, Maine has decided to join with three other New England states in a regional approach to student testing.
Maine will join New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont as the fourth member of the New England Common Assessment Program, a multistate testing partnership.
By joining the collaborative, Maine will reduce its costs for testing by up to $1 million a year, and join a growing regional approach to education intended to benefit its students. NECAP will replace Maine’s current assessment test, the Maine Education Assessment.
Gov. John E. Baldacci said he sees NECAP as the first step in building a collaborative approach to education in the New England states.
“Our region has a reputation for being innovators in education,” Baldacci said last week. “We are leaders in work on standards and high school reform. We can’t operate as individual states; our standards need to be at an international level to maximize the creativity, the knowledge base and the resources of the four states if we are to be competitive globally.”
As the newest NECAP partner, Maine will join the other three member states in developing and administering NECAP tests in reading, writing and mathematics to all students in grades three through eight.
The tests will be developed in common by all partner states and be aligned with the state standards (what all students should know and be able to do at each grade level) that all NECAP states have adopted.
The results of the tests, which are required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, determine whether schools have made adequate yearly progress and what actions state education departments will initiate to assist in improving student performance.
Teachers from the NECAP states are involved in the development of the test questions and set the standards for scoring the tests. The states administer the tests each October. Measured Progress of Dover, N.H., will produce, distribute, collect and score the tests and issue result reports, under the terms of a multistate contract that runs through the end of 2014.
Maine Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron noted that with Maine becoming a member of the NECAP partnership, all four states would benefit from a lower per-pupil cost for the test administration. Addition of the expertise of Maine educators will allow the NECAP partner states to maintain the high quality of the NECAP tests, even in a time of diminishing funds, she said.
“Maine has always been very excited about the NECAP but was unable to participate initially because it would have required a change in Maine law,” said Gendron. “We are very appreciative of the three states’ willingness to have Maine join the partnership. The New England states are more alike than different — we have similar standards and rigorous expectations. This will help us maximize the quality of education and share the expertise of our educators.”
Maine, which has used Measured Progress to develop its own state tests, will use NECAP tests in grades three through eight only. It will continue to use the College Board SAT as its high school assessment. The NECAP tests look similar to the Maine Educational Assessments, and the reports used by teachers, schools and school districts will be nearly identical.
Maine has not joined the NECAP partnership on science testing, which is managed through a separate contract with Measured Progress. The four states have agreed to discuss establishing a four-state partnership for the science test.
The NECAP partnership originated in a series of discussions among New England states that began in 2002, shortly after NCLB became law, requiring all states to expand their testing programs. The NECAP contract with Measured Progress was signed in 2004, and the partner states administered the first NECAP tests in October 2005.