September 22, 2000
Dr. Theodore Sergi
Commissioner of Education
Connecticut Department of Education
165 Capitol Avenue
Room 305, State Office Building
Hartford, Connecticut 06106-1630
Dear Commissioner Sergi:
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the review of Connecticut's final assessment system under the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the final review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support your State's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
As we discussed, the evaluation conducted by external peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education staff found that, except for the features noted below, Connecticut's assessment system meets the requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) and 1116(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
- Revise the existing State inclusion policy to agree with Title I requirements. Section 1111(b)(3)(G) of the statute makes clear the only category of students who can be exempted from testing are students who have not attended schools in the local education agency for a full academic year (in Connecticut this means 10 school months prior to test). Connecticut must therefore revise its current 30 month exemption policy for limited English proficient students.
- Connecticut must report, at the school, district, and State levels, the assessment results of all students, including those who take alternate assessments. Out of level assessments are a special case for reporting because, while they may provide useful individual performance data, the results may not consistent with grade-level standards. For the purpose of school accountability in Connecticut, results from out of level tests need to either be reported against standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled, or the student needs to be counted as not tested.
- Connecticut must include all students for the purposes of measuring school progress and exemptions or students who are not tested must also be reported and integrated into the State's accountability system. For Title I purposes, this means Connecticut's accountability system must include assessment results or exemption data for all students in assessed grades in Title I schools, including limited English proficient students receiving bilingual or English language learner services. Connecticut also must determine school progress based on all students or total enrollment rather than only on the number of students tested with at least one valid score. To make the number of exemptions clear, Connecticut should include total enrollment on its school reports, or display local participation rates based on total enrollment rather than the number of tested students with at least one valid test score. The State must develop a strategy for integrating exemptions into the State's accountability system.
- Connecticut must revise school report cards to include performance comparisons between disabled and non-disabled students as well as disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students.
Please send your plan for making these changes to Mary Jean LeTendre, Director of Title I, within 30 days of receipt of this letter. If this plan indicates that these changes can be made prior to the 2000-2001 test administration, Connecticut will be granted conditional approval of its assessment system. If any of these conditions cannot be met by the next administration of your State assessment, you may request a waiver of this timeline to stay in compliance with Title I. We will work with you and your staff to support and monitor the implementation of your plan. When the required changes have been completed, the assessment system will be fully approved.
If, over time, additional changes are made to Connecticut's assessment system, you must submit information about those changes to the Department as required by section 1111(e)(2) of Title I. For example, if new assessment components are added to the system, the related test design, performance standards, documentation of technical quality, and report formats must be submitted for review and approval as part of the final assessment system.
Please note that the approval of Connecticut's assessment system for Title I does not mean that the system complies with federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated the Connecticut assessment documents. We hope this information will be useful to the Connecticut Department of Education, providing suggestions that support continued high quality in the assessment system.