December 15, 2000
Honorable Peter McWalters
Commissioner of Education
Rhode Island Department of Elementary
and Secondary Education
255 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Dear Commissioner McWalters:
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the review of Rhode Island's final assessment system under the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the final review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support your State's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
The review found that, except for the features noted below, Rhode Island's assessment system meets the requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) and 1116(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
To receive full approval as a final Title I assessment system, the following changes in Rhode Island's assessment policy or procedures must be in effect for the 2000-2001 administration of your assessments.
- Title I requires annual school profiles that include data on the performance of migrant students. It is understood that Rhode Island has such a very small number of migrant students that data is not likely to be appropriately disaggregated at the school and district levels. However, the State must report performance of migrant students in order to meet the Title I reporting requirements.
- The State must create uniform criteria or monitor the consistency of local criteria for exemptions based on language proficiency. Rhode Island must explain how the TESOL levels are operationally defined and how the State plans to monitor implementation to assure consistency across schools and over time. The State must also decide how exempted (Beginner level) students will be reflected in the Title I school reporting and accountability system. At minimum, the number of students exempted from testing must be included on the school profiles along with assessment results and must be disaggregated to the extent possible.
- The State must complete the design of the school accountability system and implement the system based on results from the 2000-2001 assessments. The accountability system must include results for students who take the alternate assessment and for LEP students, who must be included to the maximum extent possible. Rhode Island must determine how it will treat for school accountability purposes the assessment results for LEP students now tested but "sheltered" for one year.
Please send your plan for making these changes to Mary Jean LeTendre, Director of Title I, within 30 days of receipt of this letter. We will work with you and your staff to support and monitor the implementation of your plan. When the required changes have been completed, the assessment system will be fully approved.
Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated the Rhode Island assessment documents. We hope this information will be useful to the Rhode Island Department of Education, providing suggestions that support continued high quality in the assessment system.