ELEMENTARY & SECONDARY EDUCATION
Assessment
Guidance on Alternate Assessments

June 16, 2006

Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman
Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street, Mail Stop 702
Columbus, OH 43215-4183

Dear Superintendent Zelman:

We are writing in response to your March 20, 2006 request for a one-year exception to the 1.0 percent statewide cap on the number of proficient and advanced scores from alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards that can be included in adequate yearly progress (AYP) decisions. We appreciate your staff's willingness to provide additional information to us and to speak with us about this request. Based on all the information provided by Ohio, we cannot approve your request to use proficient and advanced scores from alternate assessments in AYP decisions subject to a cap of 1.5 percent for the 2005–06 school year. You may, however, continue to use the 1.3 percent cap approved last year.

This decision is intended to support Ohio's commitment to ensure that as many students with disabilities as possible are held to grade-level academic achievement standards, and that the use of alternate achievement standards is limited to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Raising the cap from 1.3 to 1.5 percent does not appear to be warranted based on the number of students scoring proficient or advanced on the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards in previous years. Nor is there a sufficient justification for an increase in the number of students being assessed based on alternate achievement standards. If, after you calculate your student achievement data, you find that more than 1.3 percent of students actually achieve proficiency on the alternate assessment, you may resubmit a request.

As you know, we are in the midst of peer reviewing State standards and assessment systems to ensure that they have met the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) requirements, including alternate assessments and alternate achievement standards. Ohio was peer reviewed in May 2006 and Department staff is working to provide feedback on Ohio's status.

The Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Office of Special Education Programs will continue working with you to ensure the successful implementation of the Title I assessment requirements, including the requirements for assessment of children with disabilities. In addition, the Office of Special Education Programs is available to provide technical assistance to your State on the related requirements of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, including those related to assessments; placement in the least restrictive environment; the provision of supplementary aids and services; and access to and progress in the general curriculum.

NCLB has provided a vehicle for States to raise the achievement of all students and to close the achievement gap. We are seeing the results of our combined endeavor; achievement is rising throughout the nation. We appreciate Ohio’s efforts to raise the achievement of all students and hold all schools accountable and to develop assessments that will measure academic achievement for all students in valid and reliable ways. We wish you continued success in your school improvement efforts.

Sincerely,

Raymond Simon
Assistant Secretary for
Elementary and Secondary
Education
Troy R. Justesen, Ed.D.
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
for Special Education and
Rehabilitative Services

cc: Mitchell Chester

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Last Modified: 06/20/2006