May 7, 2001
Honorable César A. Rey Hernández
Secretary of Education
Puerto Rico Department of Education
P.O. Box 190759
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00919-0759
Dear Secretary Rey Hernández:
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the Department's review of Puerto Rico's final assessment system under the requirements of Title I 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 the Commonwealth's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
As we have discussed, Congress enacted the Title assessment requirements as part of the major overhaul of Title I in 1994. The statute requires each State to implement a system of challenging content and performance standards, aligned assessments, and a system of school accountability for the 2000-2001 school year.
The documentation your Department submitted for Puerto Rico's assessment system was carefully reviewed by a group of bilingual external reviewers with strong expertise and experience in the design of State assessment systems. The external reviewers raised a number of issues related to the substance and timeline for completion of Puerto Rico's assessment system.
As we discussed, several aspects of Puerto Rico's assessment system do not meet the requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) and 1116(a) of Title I. These must be addressed in order for Puerto Rico to remain eligible to receive Title I funds. In particular, Puerto Rico must address the following issues.
Title I requires that each State have final assessments in place by the 2000-2001 school year. These assessments must be aligned with the State's content and student performance standards, include multiple measures, and assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding.
Based on information provided by the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE), it appears that the Prueba Puertorriqueña de Competencias Escolares (PP) tests each year six competencies out of 12-14 that the Commonwealth has established for each subject. Consequently, Puerto Rico's assessment system does not reflect the breadth and depth of the State's academic standards and fails to measure at least one-half of what Puerto Rico's students are expected to learn. It cannot provide parents, teachers, and students with valid information on the progress students are making toward meeting content and performance standards.
In order to meet Title I requirements, Puerto Rico must improve the alignment between the Prueba Puertorriqueña and its content and performance standards and submit evidence that the assessment reflects the full range of standards, or that it samples enough standards to make relevant inferences about student performance on the entire set of standards. Such evidence should also demonstrate that the assessment reflects the depth, breadth, and complexity of the standards. Furthermore, the documentation must show that Prueba Puertorriqueña assesses higher-order thinking skills.
Title I requires that State assessments be used for purposes for which such assessments are valid and reliable, and be consistent with professional and technical standards for such assessments. States must demonstrate that their tests are valid and reliable for school accountability purposes.
The PRDE and its contractor have developed a standardized assessment system that reflects classical and modern measurement theory. However, Puerto Rico did not submit sufficient documentation addressing the test's reliability, fairness, or comparability.
To meet the Title I requirement, Puerto Rico must submit additional evidence that the assessment meets professional technical standards, including, in particular, standards for reliability, fairness, and comparability.
We have recently received a copy of the technical manual for the writing test, and we will have it peer reviewed soon.
The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that all students are held to the same high standards and appropriately assessed against those standards, and to ensure that the indicators used to hold schools accountable include performance data on all students in the grades being assessed.
Based on Puerto Rico's submission, it appears that your Department does not have consistent and appropriate policies and practices for including students with disabilities (SWD) and limited Spanish proficient (LSP) students in the assessment. Your agency did not present documentation addressing whether all students are included in the measures of school progress.
In order to meet Title I requirements, Puerto Rico must:
- Develop comprehensive policies for maximizing the inclusion of LSP students and SWD in your assessment system, and provide accurate participation data for SWD and LSP students.
- Develop appropriate ways for assessing students whose first language is not Spanish.
- Develop procedures for using portfolios as a statewide alternate assessment that measures SWD's performance against the State standards, and describe how those results will be part of the accountability system.
- Develop and implement procedures for monitoring inclusion of all students in the assessment system.
- Include all students in the accountability system.
REPORTING AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Title I requires that States provide individual student reports on the attainment of performance standards, and report (for the State, LEAs and schools) results disaggregated by gender, racial and ethnic group, language (in this case, Spanish) proficiency, migrant status, and by students with disabilities as compared to non-disabled students as well as economically disadvantaged compared to non-disadvantaged students.
Puerto Rico does not currently disaggregate data for limited Spanish proficient students, or for students with disabilities versus students without disabilities. In order to meet Title I requirements, your agency must add these categories to State-, district-, and school-level reports.
Title I also requires that the State assessment be used as the primary mechanism for determining adequate yearly progress for schools and districts. Puerto Rico's submission did not provide evidence addressing this requirement. To meet the Title I requirement, Puerto Rico must submit evidence that the Prueba Puertorriqueña is the primary measure of school and district progress, and that the scores of all students are included in the measures of progress. Your agency must also show that the results from the multiple measures components of the assessment are used in determining school progress.
As we discussed, I am requesting that Puerto Rico enter into a compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Education. A compliance agreement is a statutory remedy authorized by Section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act for situations in which a State or local educational agency cannot meet statutory requirements within the timeframe specified by law. Its purpose is to enable a grantee to remain eligible to receive funding while coming into full compliance with applicable requirements as soon as feasible but no longer than three years.
We are ready to work with Puerto Rico to reach agreement on the terms of the compliance agreement as quickly as possible. After we have agreed to tentative terms, the Department must hold a hearing to explore why full compliance with the Title I final assessment requirements is not feasible until a future date. The State, affected students and their parents, and other interested parties may participate. If I continue to believe after the hearing that full compliance is genuinely not feasible until a future date, I will make written findings to that effect and will publish those findings, along with the substance of the compliance agreement, in the Federal Register.
I would like to meet with you or appropriate officials of your Department within the next 30 days to begin discussing the compliance agreement. At this meeting, as I discussed over the phone, I would be willing to receive additional information from the Commonwealth that, if adequate, would result in Puerto Rico's receiving a timeline waiver rather than entering into a compliance agreement. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call me.
Thomas M. Corwin
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary