June 28, 2006
The Honorable John Winn
Commissioner of Education
Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street, Suite 1514
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0100
Dear Commissioner Winn:
Thank you for your participation in the U.S. Department of Education's (Department) standards and assessment peer review process under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB). I appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the peer review. As you know, with the implementation of NCLB's accountability provisions, each school, district, and State is held accountable for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) towards having all students proficient by 2013-14. An assessment system that produces valid and reliable results is fundamental to a State's accountability system.
I am writing to follow up on the letter that was sent to you on April 19, 2006. In that letter we presented the results of the peer review of the Florida standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for Florida to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. At this time, the need for that evidence remains.
As you will recall, the Department laid out new approval categories in the letter to the Chief State School Officers on April 24, 2006. These categories better reflect where States collectively are in the process of meeting the statutory standards and assessment requirements and where each State individually stands. Based on these new categories, the current status of the Florida standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that Florida's standards and assessment system administered in the 2005-06 school year has at least two fundamental components that are missing or that do not meet the statutory and regulatory requirements, in addition to other outstanding issues that can be addressed more immediately. These deficiencies must be resolved in a timely manner so that the standards and assessment system administered next year meets all requirements. The Department believes that Florida can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.
Florida's system has at least two fundamental components that warrant the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve Florida's standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the technical quality and achievement standards of the alternate assessment (the Florida Alternate Assessment Report or FAAR) and the lack of performance level descriptors that include descriptions of competencies associated with each level and content area (reading, mathematics and science) for both the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and the FAAR. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence Florida must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.
Accordingly, Florida is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on Florida's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. Florida must provide, not later than 25 business days from receipt of this letter, a plan and detailed timeline for how it will meet the remaining requirements to come into full compliance by the end of the 2006-07 school year. Beginning in September 2006, Florida must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, Florida does not meet the timeline set forth in its plan, the Department will initiate proceedings, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, to withhold 15 percent of Florida's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Florida.
I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system and we are committed to helping you get there. Toward that end, let me reiterate my earlier offer of technical assistance. We remain available to assist you however necessary to ensure you administer a fully approved standards and assessment system. We will schedule an additional peer review when you have evidence available to further evaluate your system. If you have any questions or would like to request reconsideration of the conditions, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Freeman (Catherine.Freeman@ed.gov) or Carlos Martinez (Carlos.Martinez@ed.gov) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Jeb Bush
Summary of Additional Evidence that Florida Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the Florida Assessment System
2.0 ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS
- Performance descriptors that include descriptions of competencies associated with each level and content area (reading, mathematics and science) for both the FCAT and the FAAR.
- Evidence of completion of development activities of the improved alternate assessment, and information on its technical quality, with SBE approval of performance descriptors and alternate achievement standards.
4.0 TECHNICAL QUALITY
- Evidence of a generally accepted standard setting procedure applied to the alternate assessments.
- Establish inter-rater and test-retest reliability of FAAR scores.
- Evidence that scores yielded on the FAAR are meaningful with regard to distinct performance levels.