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West Virginia Assessment Letter

November 8, 2000

Honorable David Stewart
Interim State Superintendent of Schools
West Virginia Department of Education
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Building 6, Room B-358
Charleston, WV 25305

Dear Superintendent Stewart:

I am pleased that we had the opportunity to discuss the findings of the review of West Virginia's final assessment system under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As you know, these requirements were adopted as part of the major overhaul of Title I undertaken by Congress and the Administration in 1994. The statute requires each State to implement a system of challenging content and performance standards, aligned assessments, and school accountability for the 2000-2001 school year.

The documentation of West Virginia's assessment system was carefully reviewed by a group of 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 your State assessment system. West Virginia's ability to meet the Title I requirements on time is of concern to the Department.

PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

Title I requires that each State submit evidence of performance standards aligned to content standards. West Virginia submitted evidence of performance standards that was reviewed prior to the assessment review. West Virginia's submission can not be approved because it lacked evidence that: (1) the State has approved the performance standards, (2) the performance standards are aligned with the State content standards, and (3) a broad base of stakeholders were involved in the development of the performance standards. A State must have performance standards in place as part of the final assessment system and must report student performance against these standards.

FULL ASSESSMENT SYSTEM and ALIGNMENT

Title I requires that each State have final assessments in place by the 2000-2001 school year. These assessments must be aligned to the State's content and student performance standards, include multiple measures, and be administered annually to students in at least one grade in each of three grade spans-grades 3 through 5, 6 through 9, and 10 through 12.

The West Virginia State Code provides for an annual assessment of all students in grades K-12. To meet this requirement, West Virginia administers the following tests: the Metropolitan Reading Test (MRT) in grade K; the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-9) in grades 1-11; the West Virginia Writing Assessment in grades 4, 7, and 10; ACT Explore in grades 8 and 10; Algebra I exit examination in grade 8 (pilot test); the High Schools That Work Exam in grade 12; and the Alternate Assessment for Severely Disabled Students in grades K-12 (piloted in 1999-2000 and to be administered statewide in 2000-2001). However, since only the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-9) in grades 3-11 is being used for accountability purposes under Title I, it alone was reviewed by the Peer Reviewers for the purposes of satisfying the final assessment requirements under Title I.

West Virginia's sole reliance on the SAT-9 does not satisfy the requirement to involve multiple measures of student performance, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding. There are other components of West Virginia's assessment system that might help meet the requirement for multiple measures and higher-order thinking, but they need to be included in the Title I accountability system to do so.

Second, the only evidence of alignment between the SAT-9 and West Virginia's content standards that was submitted for peer review was the request for proposals for the development of this aspect of the current system. This is insufficient to establish alignment between the SAT-9 and content standards. Adequate evidence beyond the initial request for proposals would include test blueprints, contract details, or gap analyses and plans to correct alignment problems.

Third, the State needs to provide evidence of quality control procedures for scoring, data analysis, and reporting the SAT-9 results.

INCLUSION

Title I requires that final assessments provide for the participation in the assessment and accountability system of virtually all students in the grades being assessed. Title I specifically requires the inclusion of limited English proficient (LEP) students in final assessments and makes clear that States must assess LEP students, to the extent practicable, in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable information on what they know and can do in subjects other than English. Furthermore, Title I requires States to provide reasonable adaptations and accommodations for students with diverse learning needs, including LEP students and students with disabilities.

While West Virginia reports the results of students taking the assessment under standard conditions, the scores of students that take the assessment under non-standard conditions are not included in the State, county or school reports or used for Title I accountability purposes. As a result, 19,448 or 64% of students with disabilities are not part of the reporting system or accountability system. This high rate of exclusion of students with disabilities does not meet the Title I inclusion requirement, nor does it indicate a system of reasonable adaptations or accommodations. No evidence was provided on the number of LEP students similarly excluded from the assessment or accountability system.

In addition, it is unclear how the alternate assessment, which will be implemented in the spring of 2001, will be used in the State's accountability system.

REPORTING

  • Title I requires that assessments provide individual student interpretive and descriptive reports that let parents know how well their students are meeting the performance standards set by the State.

Without performance standards, West Virginia cannot report student achievement results in a manner that meets Title I requirements.

  • Title I requires that assessment results to be disaggregated within each State, local educational agency, and school by gender, major racial and ethnic groups, English proficiency status, and migrant status. It also requires that students with disabilities be compared to non-disabled students, and economically disadvantaged students be compared to students who are not economically disadvantaged.

It is our understanding that West Virginia achievement data will be disaggregated for the first time using the spring 2000 data. Those reports must be submitted for review since the reporting of disaggregated data has not previously been part of the reporting format for West Virginia.

  • Title I requires that all participating LEAs produce individual school performance profiles for all their participating schools.

Other than the Title I performance report blank template, there is no evidence to suggest that LEAs are completing and disseminating these school profiles. Because West Virginia has yet to develop performance standards, there are no school level reports that report results against the standards.

  • Title I requires the State to include, for determining the progress of the LEA only, students who have attended schools in the LEA for a full academic year.

The State must provide us with a definition of "full academic year" for including students in determining adequate yearly progress.

In summary, to meet the Title I assessment and accountability requirements, West Virginia must:

  • Provide evidence of performance standards aligned to content standards.
  • Submit evidence that the assessment includes multiple measures of student performance, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding.
  • Clarify how reasonable accommodations are provided to students with disabilities and limited English proficient students that allow for their scores to be included in the accountability system.
  • Clarify how data for students who take the alternate assessment and students administered assessments with non-standard accommodations will be incorporated into the accountability system.
  • Provide complete participation data for students with disabilities and LEP students so that the State's inclusion policies relating to assessment, reporting, and accountability can be evaluated.
  • Provide evidence of alignment of the state assessment with West Virginia's content and performance standards.
  • Provide individual reports of student achievement relative to the state performance standards.
  • Provide school, district, and State level reports using disaggregated data by all the required categories.
  • Provide evidence that LEAs are completing and disseminating school and district profiles that include statistically sound disaggregated results.
  • Clarify how the State defines "full academic year" for including students in determining adequate yearly progress.

As we discussed, I am requesting that West Virginia enter into a compliance agreement with the Department of Education. A compliance agreement is a statutory remedy authorized by § 457 of the General Education Provisions Act for situations in which a State or local education 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 West Virginia 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. Provided 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 within the next 30 days to begin discussing the compliance agreement. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call me.

Sincerely,

Michael Cohen


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Last Modified: 10/09/2003