About ED OVERVIEW
Alaska Science Letter

September 26, 2008

Honorable Larry LeDoux
Commissioner of Education
Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
801 West 10th Street, Suite 200
Juneau, Alaska 99801-1894

Dear Commissioner LeDoux:

I am writing regarding our review of Alaska's science assessments under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

As outlined in my letter of February 28, 2008, States had to meet four basic requirements in science for the 2007-08 school year. In particular, each State was required to: (1) have approved content standards in science; (2) administer a regular and alternate science assessment in each of three grade spans; (3) include all students in those assessments; and (4) report the results of the regular and alternate science assessments on State, district, and school report cards. After reviewing the evidence submitted, Alaska needs to submit State-level and district-level reports (including school-level information) for grades 8 and 10, and data demonstrating that all students in the tested grades were included in the science assessments. Please let us know within 10 days of your receipt of this letter when Alaska will have that evidence available so that we can confirm that Alaska has, in fact, met the basic requirements for administering science assessments in 2007-08. States that do not provide the outstanding evidence to verify that they have met the four criteria for the 2007-08 school year have not met the basic requirements of the statute and will be subject to consequences, such as withholding of Title I, Part A administrative funds.

In 2008-09, Alaska must provide evidence for peer review that demonstrates full compliance of its science standards and assessments. In anticipation of that required peer review, Alaska chose to participate in an optional technical assistance peer review in May 2008. I appreciate the efforts that were required to prepare for the technical assistance peer review and hope that the process provided useful feedback to support Alaska's efforts to monitor student progress toward meeting challenging science standards.

Based on the evidence received from Alaska, which was reviewed by the peers and Department staff, we have concluded that Alaska's science standards and assessments do not yet meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. Specifically, for both the general science assessment and the alternate science assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards, we have concerns regarding academic achievement standards, technical quality, inclusion, and reports. The complete list of evidence needed to address these concerns is enclosed with this letter. We have scheduled peer reviews for States' science assessments for the weeks of October 25 through November 1, 2008, and March 23-27, 2009. All materials for review must be provided to the Department three weeks before the scheduled peer review.

Please keep in mind that science assessments represent one piece of a State's complete standards and assessment system, which also includes general and alternate assessments for reading and mathematics. As stated in my letter to you on September 13, 2008, Alaska's standards and assessment system is currently designated Full Approval. To remain fully approved, Alaska must demonstrate that all components of its standards and assessment system as administered in 2008-09, including general and alternate assessments for science, comply with all ESEA requirements for standards and assessment systems.

We look forward to working with Alaska to support a high-quality standards and assessment system, of which science standards and assessments are an integral part. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Sharon Hall (haron.hall@ed.gov) or Abby Potts (abigail.potts@ed.gov).

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.

Enclosure

cc: Governor Sarah Palin
Les Morse


SUMMARY OF ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE THAT ALASKA MUST SUBMIT TO MEET ESEA REQUIREMENTS FOR SCIENCE STANDARDS AND ASSESSMENTS

2.0 - ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS

GENERAL and ALTERNATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS IN SCIENCE ASSESSMENTS

  • Evidence of final academic achievement descriptors and cut scores, a description of the process used to establish these descriptors and cut scores, and evidence of their formal adoption. (2.2)
  • Evidence of science content experts and diverse stakeholder involvement in the development of the academic achievement standards. (2.6)
  • Documentation that reports include the number and percent of the students with disabilities assessed on alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards in science, and included in the general science assessments (with appropriate accommodations). (2.3.2.c)

4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY

GENERAL AND ALTERNATE SCIENCE ASSESSMENTS

  • Documentation of validity and reliability. (4.1 and 4.2)
  • Evidence of consistency of scores over time. (4.2.c)
  • Evidence that the science assessments are fair and accessible to all students. (4.3)
  • Evidence that the use of accommodations and/or alternate assessments yield meaningful scores. (4.3.d)
  • Documentation of criteria for scoring, analysis and reporting. (4.5.a)
  • Documentation that the State has a system for monitoring and improving the on-going quality of its science assessments. (4.5.b)
  • Evidence that the State monitors the availability and implementation of accommodations for use during science assessments. (4.6.e)

5.0 - ALIGNMENT

ALTERNATE SCIENCE ASSESSMENTS

  • A plan and timeline for strengthening the alignment of the ExGLEs to the PSGLEs and the AA-AAS items to the ExGLEs on operational test items where the alignment study, which was conducted on pilot items, indicates any potential weakness.

6.0 - INCLUSION

GENERAL AND ALTERNATE SCIENCE ASSESSMENTS

  • Evidence that all students in the grades tested are included in the science assessments.(6.1)

7.0 - ASSESSMENT REPORTS

GENERAL AND ALTERNATE SCIENCE ASSESSMENTS

  • Evidence that the State's reporting system facilitates appropriate, credible, and defensible interpretation and use of its assessment data. (7.1)
  • Copies of the State score reports for each grade tested for the general and alternate assessment showing:
    • Number of students enrolled and percent or number tested/not tested; and
    • Participation and assessment results at the school, LEA, and state levels for all students and for all required subgroups. (7.2)
    • Copies of the State score reports for the general and alternate assessment at the student level showing:
    • Results in terms of the State's academic achievement standards;
    • The inclusion of information for parents, teachers, and principals that helps them understand and address the specific academic needs of students, including a description of what students know and can do at different performance levels, in a format and language that is understandable, and is accompanied by interpretive guidance. (7.3)
  • The timeline for delivering score reports to districts. (7.3.c)
  • Evidence that electronic transmissions of score data are secure. (7.4)
  • Documentation that the State provides itemized score reports by subdomains or standards. (7.5)

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