Center for Best Practices
The Local Assessment System (LAS) Experience
Between 2001 and 2003, the State of Maine Department of Education mandated that every school district would develop a Comprehensive Local Assessment System to certify whether or not its students were, as required by law, achieving the standards described by the Maine Learning Results. To this end the Department engaged consultants to help districts engage in the very difficult work of writing or identifying assessments that directly addressed the standards and performance indicators, writing rubrics, double scoring student work, and addressing issues around reliability and validity.
For many districts, this was the first time teachers and administrators had wrestled with the deeper implications around a standards-based system. Discussion occurred around questions of averaging, of separating behavior issues from academic issues, or the definition of what “mastery” means in relation to student achievement. These were heated, fascinating and necessary conversations. Some districts engaged more than others. Most of the districts implementing customized learning or performance-based practice now, it’s fair to say, were very heavily engaged in 2002.
In 2003, for a variety of reasons, the DOE backed off from its mandate, and work toward the LAS was placed on a “moratorium.” Districts that had resisted the process cheered the decision. Districts that had engaged in the LAS work felt it as a betrayal of trust.