May 17, 2001
Honorable Glenn W. McGee
Superintendent of Education
Illinois Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, Illinois 62777
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the Department's review of Illinois' final assessment system under the requirements of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We appreciate the efforts Illinois made 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 Illinois is on track in the development and implementation of its assessment and accountability system, including standards-based assessments that are aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards. Illinois has completed most of the requirements for its grades 3, 5, and 8 assessments in reading, writing, and mathematics, including alignment of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) with the State standards, reporting test scores for individual students, and, through the Illinois School Report Card, reporting the ISAT results for the required groups in all grades and subjects tested. Illinois has developed the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA) as a portfolio assessment system for students with disabilities that will be implemented in the spring of 2001, and has also completed the development of performance standards for grades 3, 5, and 8 in reading and mathematics. These accomplishments indicate that you and your staff have the expertise and commitment required to implement 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, Illinois must complete its high school assessments, the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), in reading and mathematics for the eleventh grade. When these assessments are completed in 2001, the State then needs to submit documentation of development of performance standards, inclusion policies, and participation rates for these assessments. The State should also provide evidence of alignment of content and performance standards with the assessments, including a
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description of the State approach for ensuring alignment, and a plan for addressing identified gaps or weaknesses, and evidence of technical quality of all components of the PSAE. To fulfil the reporting requirements of Title I, the State must provide evidence of individual student interpretative and descriptive reports and also evidence of State, local educational agency (LEA), and school reports for the PSAE disaggregrated by all the required categories.
In addition, Illinois must provide, the following information and materials:
- A comprehensive policy on assessment guidelines and accommodations for limited English proficient (LEP) students. If a new State statute regarding LEP policy is enacted, please provide it as evidence that the State no longer has a blanket exemption of LEP students for three years. The State needs to provide clear guidance to LEAs and schools related to the use of language proficiency tests and accommodations for assessments. A plan needs to be developed for implementing the new LEP inclusion policies and for monitoring LEA compliance with the new inclusion policies when they are approved.
- For the 2001 ISAT, evidence of participation rates for each grade assessed, each subject (reading and math), and for students with disabilities (SWD) and LEP populations, the total enrollment, number assessed, and number exempted. The number assessed should be broken down by the type of assessment accommodation (regular, standard accommodations, non-standard accommodations, and alternate).
- When the alternate assessment is implemented, evidence that documents the participation results along with technical quality information on the instrument and the scores generated from it and how these scores will be included in the accountability system.
- The technical manual for the ISAT, when it is available.
- Evidence on the process Illinois will use to incorporate data for all students, including LEP and SWD students, into the accountability system.
- Information on how the State will hold K-2 schools accountable.
- Evidence on the assessments Illinois will use as the primary means of determining adequate yearly progress (AYP), once you have developed a new AYP definition.
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Since your new high school assessment will not be completed until after its administration in 2001 and because you are also still working on the development and approval of a new comprehensive policy on assessment guidelines and accommodations for LEP students, we suggest that you request a waiver of timeline to stay in compliance with Title I requirements. In your waiver request, please provide within 45 days of receipt of this letter a detailed timeline addressing each of the items identified above. When we receive your detailed plan and timeline, we will be happy to approve your request for a waiver of timeline. When the required changes have been completed, we will consider the assessment system for final approval. Failure of the State to complete activities as scheduled may make it necessary for this office to consider the other courses of action available to the Department. Potential actions include requiring Illinois to enter into a compliance agreement in order to remain eligible to receive Title I funds or initiating proceedings to withhold Title I funds from the State.
Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated Illinois' assessment documents. We hope this information will be useful to the Illinois Board 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