September 23, 2008
Dear Chief State School Officer:
I am writing to follow up on the August 18 letter from Secretary Spellings announcing the timeline for a state to submit a growth model proposal to be included in its accountability system for the 2008-09 school year. The Secretary promised to provide states with information that would help organize their proposal in a manner that would facilitate peer review and ensure that critical pieces necessary to evaluate the proposal are easily identifiable. To that end, please find enclosed a new cross-cutting document prepared by two peers from previous growth model peer review panels. The document highlights several areas that the peers found lacking in state proposals over the prior rounds of growth model reviews. Although this document is the work of the peer reviewers, and not the Department, I feel that the suggestions in the document will be beneficial for any state thinking of submitting a growth model proposal for peer review. In addition, I encourage any interested state to use the Department's January 2006 growth model peer review guidance and the peers' April 2006 summary document when developing a growth model proposal. These documents, along with the Secretary's August 18 letter, may be found on the Department's web site at: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/growthmodel/index.html.
All growth model proposals are due to the Department by October 15. The review process will be similar to the process that we have used for the past three years. We will conduct an initial review of each proposal to ensure that the state's proposal meets the core principles listed in the Secretary's August 18 letter. If we have questions, we will contact the state by October 24 and ask the state to respond by November 7. Then, those proposals that meet the core principles will be forwarded to a group of peer reviewers who will meet by early December. The Department will facilitate a call between the state and the peer reviewers prior to the meeting, so that the state may discuss its proposal with the peers and the peers may ask clarifying questions of the state. Following the December meeting of the peer reviewers, the Secretary will consider the peers' recommendations in making her decisions whether to permit additional states to include student growth in their accountability system. The Secretary intends to announce her decisions in December.
Growth models are a common-sense way to acknowledge the hard work being done in schools and districts around the country, but we need to make sure they fit in the context of a state's existing system and that the assessment and data systems can support a measure of growth for all students across schools and over time. Growth models, as a component of the state's accountability system, show promise for giving schools proper credit for improving student achievement over time. I hope that the enclosed document will help you submit a successful growth model proposal.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.