April 2, 2001
Honorable Raymond J. Simon
General Education Division
Arkansas Department of Education
Four State Capitol Mall, Room 304 A
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201-1071
Dear Director Simon:
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the Department's review of Arkansas' final assessment system under the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support your State's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
As a result of our discussion, it is clear to me that Arkansas is on track in the development and implementation of its assessment and accountability system, including standards-based assessments that are aligned with the Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks. Arkansas has completed most of the requirements for its grades 4 and 8 assessments in literacy and math, including alignment to the state standards, technical quality and inclusion of students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency. Arkansas has developed portfolio assessment systems for students with disabilities and limited English proficient students that will be implemented in the spring of 2001, and has also completed the development of performance standards for grades 4 and 8 in literacy and math. These performance standards were peer reviewed and approved. These accomplishments indicate that you and your staff have the expertise and commitment required to complete an assessment system that is consistent with Title I requirements.
The evaluation conducted by external peer reviewers found that your state needs to complete several aspects of its final assessment system prior to receiving full approval under Title I. Most significantly, Arkansas must complete its assessments in grade 6 in math and literacy, and the end-of-course assessments in algebra I, geometry and literacy. When these assessments are completed and administered in 2002, the state then needs to submit documentation of development of performance standards, inclusion policies, and participation rates for these assessments, alignment of content standards to the assessments, technical quality and reporting, and use of results in accountability.
Page 2- Honorable Raymond J. Simon
In addition, Arkansas must provide, as noted below, evidence of completion of the following tasks:
- Provide school, district, and state profiles after the 2001 administration of the assessment showing data disaggregrated by disabled vs.non-disabled and economically disadvantaged vs. non-economically disadvantaged.
- Provide sample reports that show the results of the alternate portfolio assessments for students with disabilities(SWD) and limited English proficient (LEP) students.
- After the administration of the assessment in the spring 2001, provide updated participation rates that include students taking the alternate assessments for LEP and SWD.
- When the accountability system is implemented, provide a description of the system and additional information about the inclusion of all students, especially those taking the alternate portfolios for SWD and LEP students.
- Provide guidelines for accommodations for LEP students that would yield the most accurate and reliable information on what LEP students know.
Since your new end-of-course high school assessment and your grade 6 literacy and math assessments will not be completed until 2002, we suggest that you request a "waiver of timeline" to stay in compliance with the Title I requirement that you complete your final assessment system by the spring of 2000-2001. In your waiver request, please provide a detailed timeline addressing each of the items identified for completion to Dr. Joseph F. Johnson, Director of Compensatory Education Programs, within 45 days of receipt of this letter.
Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated Arkansas' assessment documents. We hope this information will be useful to the Arkansas Department of Education in its efforts to implement a high quality assessment system. We will work with you and your staff to support and monitor the implementation of your timeline waiver. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thomas M. Corwin
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary