January 12, 2001
Honorable Richard Thompson
Superintendent of Education
State Department of Education
Central High School Building
P.O. Box 771
359 North West Street
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
Dear Superintendent Thompson:
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the review of Mississippi’s final assessment system under the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We appreciate the effort 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.
The evaluation conducted by external peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education staff found that Mississippi needs to complete several aspects of its final assessment system prior to receiving full approval under Title I. When the system is fully functioning, an alignment study for the criterion referenced test and evidence of technical quality must be submitted for peer review. Mississippi also must submit evidence of approved performance standards in reading and mathematics, evidence of an alternate assessment to appropriately assess children with severe disabilities, and a description of how the scores from that alternate assessment will be part of the accountability system.
As we discussed, Mississippi’s timeline for completing its final assessment system will exceed the 2000-2001 test administration deadline for meeting Title I requirements. To stay in compliance with the requirements of Title I, you must submit a request to waive the timeline. Your request must include Mississippi’s plan to complete its performance standards and the alternate assessment portions of the State's assessment system and a detailed timeline for their completion. This wavier request should be sent to the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education within 45 days of receipt of this letter.
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Additionally, there are several issues that we believe Mississippi has addressed but for which we have no evidence. Please provide evidence of the following:
- Participation rates for students with disabilities and limited-English-proficient (LEP) students.
- Documentation that Mississippi’s LEP inclusion policy requires an assessment of a student’s progress based on language proficiency if the student is exempted from the statewide test for a second year.
- Clear guidelines to districts for making exemption decisions and evidence that Mississippi monitors the application of exemptions at the district and/or school level.
- Documentation of how assessment results of all students will be disaggregated and reported so that comparisons can be made between advantaged versus disadvantaged students, students with disabilities versus students without disabilities, and all other reporting categories required under Title I.
Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated Mississippi’s original submission of assessment documents. We hope this information will be useful to the Mississippi 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 plan. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call me.