AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills and Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin issued a recommendation April 7 to educators to begin plans to continue distance learning for the remainder of the academic year.
“It is difficult to make such a recommendation, recognizing the profound challenge of reinventing public education and the many culminating events and rites of passage that educators and students anticipate all year long,” Makin wrote in a letter to educators.
Makin, in her letter, noted she acknowledges the recommendation will be difficult for families to hear at this time.
“I believe it is extremely important for school leaders to have as much information as possible in order to best prepare educators, students, and communities for a longer period of remote learning and to promote opportunities for redesigned celebrations and alternative ways to provide both continuity and closure,” Makin said.
Makin also addressed other important education news in her letter to educators, including:
• Assessments: Maine DOE has received an exemption from ESSA assessments. As such, the Maine DOE will not require or offer the SAT to this year’s high school juniors and invite educators and school districts to assist the Department to redesign a state assessment system that “will authentically measure school success and student achievement in a more useful and meaningful way.”
• SAT admission scores: “We have confirmed that the SAT is not required for admission, nor will it be required as a screener for any program, at any Maine college or university,” Makin said. “In addition, we are hearing that colleges and university across the country are following suit.”
• University of Maine System Grading Practices and Admissions: “We also learned that UMS will be using a pass/fail system this year, including prerequisites for competitive and advanced courses, and that they recognize that students from the current cohort of applicants may also be receiving pass/fail grades,” said Makin. “They are developing innovative and flexible admissions criteria and processes.
• School District Grading Practices: “We have heard from many SAUs and schools who are using a variety of grading practices during this emergency education situation: some schools are maintaining grading practices, while others are implementing Pass/Fail. Some schools are only providing feedback instead of grades, and some are only including grades that improve a student’s overall GPA or academic standing,” said Makin. “Ultimately this is a local determination, however we would encourage SAUs and regions to discuss and determine a system that holds harmless students for whom conditions are outside of their control.”
• Enrolling new students: “There are many students whose families are experiencing housing disruption or changes during this COVID emergency, and we’ve had several calls regarding whether schools are expected to register new students if they move into a SAU,” Makin wrote. “The answer is, ‘Yes.’ It is important to ensure there are directions that are publicly available on how new students can enroll during this pandemic.”
• Providing meals during April Break: “We have applied for and received approval for a waiver that will allow for SAUs to continue approved Unanticipated School Closure meal service operations during April Break,” Makin said. “You can claim reimbursement for meals served at approved sites over the break on the days of the week you have been approved to serve.”