Alaska

The Honorable Michael Hanley
Commissioner
Department of Education and Early Development
PO Box 110500
Juneau, AK 99811

Dear Commissioner Hanley:

This letter is to to follow up on the U.S. Department of Educatios’s (ED) May 21, 2014 progress check with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (EED) regarding EED’s implemention of Alaska’s approved ESEA flexibility request. During the progress check, EED indicated that it has decided to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and not to administer assessments developed by SBAC in the 2014−2015 school year. To meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility, a State educational agency (SEA) must develop annual, Statewide, high-quality assessments, and corresponding academic achievement standards, in reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. These assessments must be fully implemented no later than the 2014–2015 school year. Among other characteristics, a high-quality assessment must be valid, reliable, and fair for its intended purposes, be aligned with a State’s college- and career-ready content standards, and provide an accurate measure of student growth over a full academic year or course. In its approved ESEA flexibility request, EED met this requirement through its participation in SBAC. Because EED is no longer administering the assessement developed by SBAC, it must amend its ESEA flexibility request to demonstrate how it will meet the requirement to administer high-quality assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics by the 2014–2015 school year. This letter details how EED must amend its request in order to remain in compliance with ESEA flexibility requirements.

ED provided an SEA with three options to address how it would meet the requirement to develop and administer high-quality assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards: (1) participate in one of the two State assessment consortia — i.e., PARCC or SBAC; (2) if the SEA is not in a consortium and has not yet developed high-quality assessments, provide the SEA’s plan to develop and administer those assessments no later than 2014–2015; or (3) if the SEA is not in a consortium but has developed high-quality assessments, it must provide evidence that the SEA submitted those assessments to ED for peer review or provide a timeline of when the SEA will submit them for peer review. Your response to the Progress Check quesitons indicates that the EED will pursue the second option.

Because EED is no longer participating in SBAC, EED must amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility to provide a high-quality plan that details the steps EED will take to adminster a high-quality assessment, as defined in the document titled ESEA Flexibility (available at: (http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/documents/esea-flexibility-acc.doc), in reading/language arts and mathematics by the 2014–2015 school year. As described in the ESEA Flexibility Review Guidance (available at: (http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/documents/review-guidance.doc), such a plan must include, at a minimum, for each key component of the plan, the following elements: key milestones and activities, a detailed timeline, the party or parties responsible, evidence, resources, and significant obstacles. Generally, an SEA’s plan to develop and administer high-quality assessments should address, at a minimum, the following key components:

  • the process and timeline for development of test blueprints and item specifications
  • the review and selection of items for inclusion in the assessments
  • scaling and scoring procedures to be used
  • test administration procedures, including selection and use of appropriate accommodations
  • data analyses proposed to document validity and reliability of the assessments
  • an independent evaluation of alignment of the assessments with the State’s college- and career-ready standards
  • the process and timeline for setting college- and career-ready achievement standards and the method and timeline to validate those achievment standards and
  • meaningful report formats to communicate results to students, parents, and educators.

As your response to the Progress Check question indicates, if EED plans to work with a contractor to develop an assessment, this high-quality plan must still address the issues outlined above.

To amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility, EED must submit both the amendment request template (available at: ( http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.html) and a redline version of its currently approved request reflecting that it has changed its approach to developing and administering high-quality assessments. (The high-quality plan described above may either be inserted into the redline request or submitted as an attachment to the redlined request.) EED must submit this amendment request no later than 30 calendar days from the date of this letter. ED will review the request and notify EED, in writing, of its determination.

In the coming days, ED will contact Margaret Mackinnon, your ESEA flexibility lead, to check in regarding your amendment request. In the meantime, please refer to the document titled ESEA Flexibility Amendment Submission Process (available at: (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/amendment-submission-process.doc), which describes the steps that are necessary as part of requesting an amendment. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Emily Bank of my staff at: Emily.Bank@ed.gov.

Sincerely,

/s/
Deborah S. Delisle
Assistant Secretary

cc: Margaret MacKinnon, Title I/ESEA Administrator


 
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Last Modified: 08/27/2014