January 22, 2001
Honorable Susan Tave Zelman
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215-4163
Dear Superintendent Zelman:
It has been a pleasure working with you and your staff during the review process for Ohio's final assessment system under the Title I. I appreciate your cooperation in agreeing to make the changes in your assessment system that are necessary to meet the requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) and 1116(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The evaluation conducted by external peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education staff found that in order to fully meet the requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) and 1116(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Ohio must address the following tasks.
- Ohio must implement a standards-based test administered to all students at some time in grades 10-12. Based on your description, we expect that the grade 10 test that will be fully implemented in 2003 will satisfy this requirement. Ohio will be expected to submit the content and performance standards for approval as they are completed and also to provide documentation of the technical quality of the test.
- Ohio must provide evidence that the grade 4, 6, and 10 tests satisfy the requirement for "multiple up-to-date measures of student performance, including measures that assess higher order thinking skills and understanding." Other States have been required to provide documentation of either item development procedures or results from a post hoc analysis conducted by educators familiar with State standards as evidence that test items address higher order thinking and understanding.
- Ohio must revise inclusion policies and procedures for the Statewide assessment program to assure participation of all students as required by Title I; communicate the new inclusion requirements to all schools; and monitor implementation of the new inclusion procedures to assure consistency across districts and schools.
- The revised policies and procedures must assure that all students with disabilities are tested. (This requirement appears to be in conflict with Ohio Code 3301.07.11.) An individual may participate in the regular assessment without accommodations; participate in the regular assessment with accommodations identified in their IEP, or take the statewide alternate assessment. Assessment results must be reported for all students with disabilities. Results for all students with disabilities, including those who take the Alternate Assessment, must be included in measures of school progress.
- The revised policies and procedures must assure that Limited English Proficient students are assessed to the extent practicable in the language and form most likely to yield valid results and/or participation in the regular assessment with appropriate accommodations as needed. Title I requires that except for LEP students who have attended Ohio schools for less than one year, any exemptions from testing must be made on an individual basis, and must be based on clear criteria for language proficiency. In addition, the results for LEP students tested or the number of exemptions must be reported and included in determinations of school quality. (This requirement appears to be in conflict with Ohio Code 3301.07.11.)
- Ohio must modify school accountability calculations to include all students. (This requirement appears to be in conflict with Ohio Code 3302.03.) This requires either that calculation of the percent of students performing at proficient or advanced levels is based on total enrollment rather than the number of students tested, or that a school performance standard is added based on limited exemptions from testing as a strategy to encourage maximum inclusion of students in the assessment system.
- Ohio must modify the State, district and school reports and assure distribution of school reports to educators, parents and the community. (This requirement appears to be in conflict with Ohio Code 3302.03.) At all levels reports must include results expressed as performance levels and display results disaggregated by gender, racial/ethnic groups, English proficiency status, migrant status, by students with disabilities as compared to non-disabled students, and by economically disadvantaged students as compared to students who are not economically disadvantaged.
The "Title I Federal Compliance Timeline" that you submitted on January 17 addresses all of the changes needed to comply with the Title I assessment requirements. We understand that it will take some time to complete the revision of assessments to align with new Ohio standards, to modify policy and procedures to assure inclusion of all students in assessment and accountability, and to make the necessary changes in reports.
Therefore, in response to your request, I agree to grant a three-year waiver of the timeline for completion of Ohio's final assessment system to assure the State's continued eligibility for receiving Title I funds. This approval is contingent on your submission within 30 days of an expanded version of the compliance timeline action plan referenced above that includes quarterly milestones. For example, Item 3 in the timeline indicates that you will revise policy regarding LEP participation in the assessments, seek Board approval for the new policy, and introduce a proposal for change of the Ohio Code to the legislature. The detailed timeline might include details such as review by this office of draft language for the policy statement or draft language for legislative consideration. Projected dates for Board or legislative action should also be included when appropriate.
The Title I office will monitor progress against the timeline. Failure of the State to complete activities or products as scheduled in the first twelve months will make it necessary for this office to consider the other courses of action available to the Department. These include requiring Ohio 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 Ohio
Full approval will be extended upon completion of the actions as described in your timeline. The Title I office will be happy to work with you and your staff to achieve consistency between the Title I requirements and the Ohio assessment system. We wish you well in your efforts to improve school and student performance in your state.
Stephen C. Moore
Deputy Assistant Secretary