January 25, 2006
Honorable Roger Sampson
Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
801 West 10th Street
Juneau, Alaska 99801-1894
Dear Commissioner Sampson:
Thank you for submitting Alaska's assessment materials for review under the standards and assessment requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the peer review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support your State's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
External peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education staff evaluated Alaska's submission and found it to be in substantial compliance with ESEA's standards and assessment requirements. The review found that, except for the critical elements noted below, Alaska's assessment system meets the requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) of ESEA.
Additional evidence is needed to show how Alaska meets the following critical elements of the NCLB standards and assessment requirements:
Achievement Standards (Element 2.0): Additional evidence is needed to address the gap that exists between the Below Proficient and Proficient performance levels of achievement. Issues of rigor and challenge regarding the Advanced level of performance must be addressed. Evidence of academic achievement standards for the new high school and alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards must be submitted for peer review when the cut scores and performance descriptors have been developed. Content competency specific performance descriptors must be developed for reading/language arts and mathematics for each performance level.
Technical Quality (Element 4.0): Additional documentation of the standard setting process (e.g., selection of judges, methodology used and process results) for the alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards must be provided to show how cut points were established for the different levels. Evidence of technical quality must be provided for the new high school assessments after they have been administered.
Alignment (Element 5.0): Evidence of compliance with NCLB alignment requirements must be submitted for the new high school and alternate assessments when they have been finalized.
Because Alaska's standards and assessment system meets most, but not all, of ESEA's statutory and regulatory requirements, and because after conferring with your staff, ED believes that Alaska can take the necessary steps to come into full compliance, the status of Alaska's assessment system is Deferred Approval. With Deferred Approval status, a State must articulate clearly to ED how it will meet the remaining requirements and be able to fully implement its standards and assessment system by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.
Alaska must submit to ED as soon as possible its timeframe for submitting any additional evidence for coming into full compliance. When the required additional evidence has been submitted, it will be subject to peer and/or ED staff review. Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated the Alaska assessment materials. I hope you will find the reviewers' comments and suggestions helpful.
We look forward to working with Alaska to support a high-quality assessment system. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call Zollie Stevenson, Jr. (202-260-1824) or Abigail Potts (202-260-2465) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Les Morse