August 17, 2004
Honorable Rick Melmer
Secretary of Education
South Dakota Department of Education
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2291
Dear Secretary Melmer:
I am pleased to approve South Dakota'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. At the end of its timeline waiver, South Dakota was to provide the Department documentation of (1) the development of English/language arts and mathematics performance standards; (2) the alignment of standards and assessments; (3) development of an alternate format for those not taking the Dakota Assessment of Content standards on-line; (4) participation data from the 2001-2002 administration of the State assessment confirming the inclusion of students with disabilities and limited English proficient students; (5) evidence that the State's Title I accountability system includes results from alternate assessments; and (6) reports of test results disaggregated by all groups required by the statute, particularly reports for migrant students and a comparison of disabled to non-disabled students.
Peer reviewers external to the Department and Department staff have reviewed evidence of compliance submitted by South Dakota. We have concluded that this evidence satisfies IASA assessment requirements for Title I.
We look forward to working with you as South Dakota expands its assessment system to meet the new Title I requirements for standards and assessments under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). As South Dakota prepares for the peer review of its standards and assessments under NCLB, I encourage you to review carefully the "Standards and Assessments Peer Review Guidance: Information and Examples for Meeting Requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001." The purpose of this document is twofold: (1) to inform States about what would be useful evidence to demonstrate that they have met NCLB standards and assessments requirements; and (2) to guide teams of peer reviewers who will examine the evidence submitted by States and advise the Department as to whether a State has met the requirements. I have enclosed a copy of this document with this letter.
Please be aware that approval of South Dakota's assessment system for Title I 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 South Dakota 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. Congratulations on a fully approved assessment system under IASA. I wish you well in your continued efforts to improve student achievement in South Dakota.