May 1, 2014
The Honorable Glenda Ritz
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction
Indiana Department of Education
PNC Building, South Tower, Suite 600
115 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Superintendent Ritz:
Thank you for your efforts over the past two years in implementing local and State-led reforms to support improved teaching and learning for all students, particularly historically disadvantaged student subgroups. As you know, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) offered flexibility from specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive State-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.
I am writing with respect to two very important matters concerning the Indiana Department of Education’s (IDOE) implementation of its flexibility request under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA flexibility). First, I am placing a condition on IDOE’s ESEA flexibility request due to the number of significant issues from our Part B monitoring of IDOE’s implementation of ESEA flexibility. Second, IDOE must submit a high-quality plan for how it will implement college- and career-ready content standards and aligned assessments consistent with the principles of ESEA flexibility during the 2014–2015 school year. Each of these matters is discussed more fully below.
Condition with respect to ESEA flexibility Part B monitoring
As you know, during early fall, my office monitored IDOE’s implementation of ESEA flexibility and determined that IDOE had not demonstrated that its implementation of ESEA flexibility was consistent with its approved ESEA flexibility request and the principles and timelines outlined in the document titled ESEA Flexibility. The report concludes, for example, that IDOE:
- did not ensure that focus schools were implementing interventions to close achievement gaps for their lowest-achieving subgroups;
- did not ensure that all priority schools were implementing all turnaround principles concurrently; and
- did not have adequate processes to monitor implementation of college- and career-ready standards or teacher and principal evaluation and support systems in its local educational agencies (LEAs).
For these and other areas under review, the monitoring report identifies a number of “next steps” that IDOE must take, or demonstrate that it has taken, to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility and implement reforms to improve student achievement and increase the quality of instruction. I am enclosing a copy of the Part B monitoring report for your information, planning, and action.
Based on the number of significant “next steps” in the monitoring report, I am placing a condition on the approval of IDOE’s ESEA flexibility request. In order to have this condition removed, IDOE must address all “next steps” in the monitoring report and submit evidence that it has done so as part of its extension request. If IDOE is not able to resolve these issues and meet its commitments under ESEA flexibility, ED may take additional enforcement action, including declining to approve an extension of ESEA flexibility for Indiana. The Department stands ready to assist Indiana to sufficiently address the issues detailed below.
Adoption and implementation of college- and career-ready standards and assessments
I understand that the Indiana legislature recently enacted legislation that impacts IDOE’s implementation of its ESEA flexibility request. Specifically, this legislation requires that (1) “before July 1, 2014, the state board shall adopt Indiana college- and career-readiness educational standards, voiding the previously adopted set of standards” and that (2) LEAs administer the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus (ISTEP+) assessments through the 2014–2015 school year.
To meet the standards requirements of ESEA flexibility, a State educational agency (SEA) must have adopted college- and career-ready standards in at least reading/language arts and mathematics for kindergarten through grade 12 at the time of its request, and must have implemented those standards no later than the 2013-2014 school year. ED provided an SEA with two options for meeting this requirement. An SEA could either (1) adopt college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of States or (2) adopt college- and career-ready standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education (IHEs), which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level. IDOE met these requirements in its approved ESEA flexibility request through the 2013–2014 school year by adopting and implementing standards common to a significant number of States. Because the IDOE will no longer implement those standards, IDOE must amend its ESEA flexibility request and provide evidence that its new standards are certified by a State network of IHEs that students who meet the standards will not need remedial coursework at the postsecondary level.
To meet the assessment requirements of ESEA flexibility, an 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, and fully implement those assessments 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, 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.
ED provided an SEA with three options to address how it would meet these requirement: (1) participate in one of the two State assessment consortia — i.e., Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (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 the 2014–2015 school year; or (3) if the SEA is not in a consortium but has developed high-quality assessments, 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. In its approved ESEA flexibility request, IDOE met these requirements through its participation in PARCC.
Because IDOE no longer plans to administer the PARCC assessments in 2014–2015, IDOE must amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility to reflect its new plan to administer high-quality assessments aligned to IDOE’s college- and career-ready standards in the 2014-2015 school year. The amendment must include a high-quality plan that details the steps IDOE will take to administer in the 2014−2015 school year high-quality assessments, 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 that are aligned with IDOE’s new college- and career-ready standards. 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: (1) key milestones and activities, (2) a detailed timeline, (3) the party or parties responsible, (4) evidence, (5) resources, and (6) significant obstacles. Generally, an SEA’s plan to develop and administer high-quality assessments should, at a minimum, address 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 (including through piloting);
- 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 achievement standards; and meaningful report formats to communicate results to students, parents, and educators.
In its ESEA flexibility request, IDOE also assured that it would develop and administer, no later than the 2014–2015 school year, alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards or alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities that are consistent with 34 C.F.R. § 200.6(a)(2) and are aligned with the State’s college- and career-ready standards. Because IDOE will have new college- and career-ready content standards, IDOE’s plan must also address how it will ensure that it will administer an alternate assessment aligned with those standards in the 2014–2015 school year. It is important to note that the IDOE must submit its new assessments for peer review as soon as that process is reinstated by ED.
To amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility, IDOE must submit both the amendment request template (available at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.htm), and a redlined version of its currently approved request reflecting its changed approach to adopting and implementing college- and career-ready standards and developing and administering high-quality assessments. (The high-quality plan regarding development of new assessments described above may either be inserted into the redlined request or submitted as an attachment to the redlined request.) IDOE must submit this amendment request no later than 60 calendar days from the date of this letter and may submit it as part of an extension request.
In the coming days, a member of my staff will contact Jeff Coyne, 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. Please do not hesitate to contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com if you have any questions.
I appreciate your continued focus on enhancing education for all of Indiana’s students.
Deborah S. Delisle