January 25, 2006
Honorable Linda McCulloch
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Montana Office of Public Instruction
1227 11th Avenue
Helena, MT 59620-2501
Dear Superintendent McCulloch:
I am pleased to approve Montana's assessment system under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (IASA). I appreciate your cooperation in making the changes in your assessment system to meet fully the IASA assessment requirements.
On April 4, 2002, former Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Susan B. Newman signed a Compliance Agreement with the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI). This Compliance Agreement expired April 4, 2005. Specifically, the compliance agreement required Montana to:
1. Complete development of performance standards by aligning performance descriptors to Montana's content standards and set cut scores on the assessments that define levels of performance.
2. Develop an academic assessment system that represents the full range of Montana's content standards and performance standards in at least reading/language arts and mathematics consistent with the Title I requirements for use of multiple measures of student achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking and understanding and document the alignment of the assessment system with Montana's content and student performance standards.
3. Document that all students are included in the assessment system, particularly limited English proficient students and students with disabilities, and include test results for all students in school accountability measures.
4. Document that all assessments used in the State for Title I accountability must meet commonly accepted professional standards for technical quality consistent with how the results are used.
5. Develop and disseminate individual student interpretive and descriptive reports and report assessment results for the state, each district, and school that are disaggregated by all required categories.
On August 30, 2005, the OPI submitted documentation requesting release from the Compliance Agreement. Peer reviewers external to the Department and Department staff have reviewed the evidence of compliance submitted by Montana. We have concluded that this evidence satisfies the IASA assessment requirements for Title I.
Please note that compliance with the IASA assessment requirements does not mean that Montana has fully met the assessment requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Although many requirements under IASA and NCLB are the same, there are some new requirements in NCLB that are not covered by this IASA approval and thus compliance under IASA will not suffice for meeting NCLB requirements. In submitting Montana's evidence of compliance with NCLB's requirements, please be sure to address the issues specified in the Peer Review Notes, particularly those listed below:
- Evidence regarding Montana's standards-setting plans for integrating the assessments in grades 3, 5, 6, and 7
- Additional evidence of the reliability of Montana's alternate assessment Evidence that sampling of content across grades allows for alignment of standards and assessments within grades
- Evidence of how Montana plans to address the gaps and weaknesses that it identifies through its alignment studies
- Evidence of Montana's formal policies regarding the inclusion of all students in the assessment system
- Evidence that Montana provides adequate training to ensure the appropriate use of the alternate assessment and implementation of accommodations
Providing this evidence will be essential for the peer review of NCLB's standards and assessment requirements.
Please be aware that approval of Montana's assessment system for IASA is not a determination 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. Finally, please remember that if Montana makes significant changes to its assessment system, the State must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval.
We have found it a pleasure working with your staff on this review. I wish you well in your continued efforts to improve student achievement in Montana.
Henry L. Johnson