AUGUSTA, Maine — The state Department of Education is moving ahead with plans to ditch the Maine Educational Assessment in favor of a regional standardized test for third- to eighth-graders. The move is expected to save the state $1 million a year.
The transition to the New England Common Assessment Program starts in the new year.
Maine schools will use the state tests in March and then switch to the regional tests in October.
The regional test used by New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island is designed and scored by the same company behind the Maine Educational Assessment, developed in the 1980s.
Daniel Hupp, Maine’s assessment director, said the regional test is better — and cheaper.
“The [regional test] is at least as strong as the Maine test, and some aspects have a far stronger design than we could have afforded or hoped for,” he said.
Mainers will notice little difference between the tests but there will be several benefits, said Michael Hock, Vermont’s testing director.
One of them is the ability to measure the performance of Maine students against their peers elsewhere in New England; another is that the timing of the test in October is designed to help gauge information students have retained over the summer, Hock said.
Measured Progress of Dover, N.H., created both the Maine and regional tests. The new tests “borrowed heavily” from the Maine Educational Assessment, he said.
Under the old schedule, Maine students were tested in third through eighth grades in March for reading and math, as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Those tests, as well as fifth- and eighth-grade writing assessments in March, will be moved to October under the New England Common Assessment Program, said David Connerty-Marin, Education Department spokesman.
Unchanged, for the time being, will be the Maine Educational Assessment test for science in grades five and eight in March, Connerty-Marin said. Also unchanged will be the use of the SAT college entrance exam to assess the skills of the 11th-graders in Maine, Connerty-Marin.
Maine will realize the savings of $1 million a year by eliminating the process of developing its own separate exams, said Tim Crockett, an official with Measured Progress.
“It’s about economies of scale,” Crockett said. In Maine, the cost per question was spread over 15,000 students at each grade level. With the regional test, the cost per question will be spread over 50,000 students at each grade level, he said.