November 6, 2000
Honorable Ray Christensen
Secretary of Education
South Dakota Department of Education
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2291
Dear Mr. Christensen:
It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the review of South Dakota's final assessment system under the Title I requirements 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 your State's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
The evaluation conducted by external peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education staff found that South Dakota needs to complete aspects of its final assessment system prior to receiving full approval under Title I. Most significantly, South Dakota has to submit evidence that it has a final standards-based assessment in mathematics and approved performance standards in reading and mathematics. Moreover, both reading and mathematics assessments must be mandatory for Title I schools. South Dakota also must submit evidence that it has an alternate assessment to appropriately assess children with severe disabilities.
As we discussed, South Dakota's timeline for completing its final assessment system will exceed the 2000-2001 test administration deadline for meeting Title I requirements. To stay in compliance with the requirements of Title I, you must submit a request to waive the timeline. Your request must include South Dakota's plan to complete its performance standards, the standards-based mathematics assessment and alternate assessment portions of the State's assessment system and a detailed timeline for their completion. This wavier request should be sent to me within 30 days of receipt of this letter.
During our phone conversation, South Dakota indicated that it had additional information regarding meeting the Title I requirements in the following areas that you will send to us with your waiver request. If this information is not currently available, please include the timeline for completing it in the work plan accompanying your waiver request.
- A description of the process used to evaluate and ensure alignment among content standards, performance standards, and the assessment system, including evidence that the components of the assessment system address the breath and depth of the standards including higher-order thinking skills.
- Documentation that South Dakota is investigating the alignment of local option tests, if they will be included in the final assessment system, and evidence of its policies for monitoring local practices. Further, if a weighting system is developed with your standards-based criterion referenced test (CRT), norm referenced test (NRT) and/or local option tests, ensure that the standards based test/CRT has the greatest weight.
- Documentation that South Dakota has appropriate inclusion of LEP students in its assessment system, including policies for monitoring local exclusion practices and policies and procedures that demonstrate a continued effort to increase the number of students with disabilities included on accountability reports.
- Documentation that student assessment results at the school, district and state level are disaggregated by all required reporting groups.
- Evidence of how the alternate assessment will fit into the school, district and state accountability system.
Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated South Dakota's original submission of assessment documents. We hope this information will be useful to the South Dakota Department of Education in its efforts to implement a high-quality assessment system.
We will work with you and your staff to support and monitor the implementation of your plan. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call me.