Date: June 13, 2014
Honorable Janet Barresi
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Oklahoma State Department of Education
Hodge Education Building
2500 North Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4599
Dear Superintendent Barresi:
Thank you for your efforts over the past two years implementing local and State-led reforms to support improved teaching and learning for all students, particularly historically disadvantaged student subgroups. I am pleased that the flexibility the U.S. Department of Education (ED) offered from specific requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), in exchange for a rigorous and comprehensive State-developed plan designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction (ESEA flexibility) has been able to support your efforts.
I am writing with respect to a very important matter concerning the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s (OSDE’s) implementation of its ESEA flexibility request. I understand that the Oklahoma State legislature recently enacted legislation that impacts OSDE’s implementation of its ESEA flexibility request. Specifically, I understand that this legislation requires Oklahoma’s State Board of Education to implement the subject matter standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics which were in place prior to the revisions adopted by the Board in June 2010 and statewide student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics that assess the standards and objectives found in the subject matter standards that were in place prior to the revisions adopted by the Board in June 2010. These standards and assessments are not consistent with OSDE’s approved ESEA flexibility request. Accordingly, in order to be approved to implement ESEA flexibility beyond the 2013–2014 school year, OSDE must submit evidence that the content standards in reading/language arts and mathematics it will implement in the 2014–2015 school year are college- and career-ready content standards and that the assessments it will administer during that year are aligned with such college- and career-ready standards consistent with the principles of ESEA flexibility.
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 fully 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. OSDE 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 OSDE will not implement standards common to a significant number of States in the 2014–2015 school year, OSDE must amend its ESEA flexibility request and provide evidence that a State network of IHEs certifies that students who meet the standards it will use in 2014–2015 will not need remedial coursework at the postsecondary level.
To meet the assessment requirements of ESEA flexibility, an SEA must develop and administer annual statewide, high-quality assessments aligned with the State’s college- and career-ready standards, 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, produce student achievement data and student growth data that can be used to determine whether an individual student is college and career ready or on track to being college and career ready, and provide an accurate measure of student growth over a full academic year or course.
In ESEA flexibility, ED provided an SEA with three options to address how it would meet these requirements: (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 (Smarter Balanced); (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 initial ESEA flexibility request, OSDE met these requirements through its participation in PARCC. In July 2013, OSDE informed ED that it no longer intended to administer the PARCC assessments. In a letter dated September 6, 2013, ED requested that OSDE submit its plan for developing and administering high-quality assessments, consistent with the requirements of ESEA flexibility Principle 1.C, Option B. In December 2013, ED received OSDE’s plan and began working with OSDE to strengthen and refine this plan. However, on June 6, 2014, ED learned that, pursuant to the State legislation referenced above, OSDE will administer in the 2014–2015 school year statewide student assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics that are aligned to the content standards that were in place in Oklahoma prior to June 2010.
Accordingly, OSDE must amend its ESEA flexibility request and provide a description and, as needed, supporting evidence of the steps that it took to determine that its assessments are high-quality assessments aligned with the State’s college- and career-ready standards, consistent with the definitions in the document titled ESEA Flexibility (available at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/documents/esea-flexibility-acc.doc). In particular, OSDE must provide a description of the steps it took to obtain an independent evaluation of alignment of the assessments with the State’s college- and career-ready standards and feedback from the State’s technical advisory committee indicating that the assessments meet the high-quality assessment criteria.
Please note that the submission of this information does not constitute submission for the required peer review, nor would ED’s approval of the submission constitute approval of the assessments. Additional information is forthcoming about the ED’s process to peer review and approval of State assessment systems.
In its ESEA flexibility request, OSDE 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 content standards. OSDE must address how it will ensure that it will administer an alternate assessment aligned with the standards it will implement in the 2014–2015 school year.
To amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility, OSDE must submit both the amendment request template (available at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.html), 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. OSDE must submit this amendment request no later than 60 calendar days from the date of this letter.
In the coming days, a member of my staff will contact Kerri White, your ESEA flexibility lead, regarding this 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 Elizabeth Ross or John McLaughlin of my staff at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. I appreciate your continued focus on enhancing education for all of Oklahoma’s students.
Deborah S. Delisle