September 28, 2006
The Honorable Bob Corkins
Commissioner of Education
Kansas State Department of Education
120 SE 10th Avenue
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1182
Dear Commissioner Corkins:
I am writing in response to the letter from Deputy Commissioner Tom Foster on August 1, 2006, providing additional assessment materials for review by the Department under the standards and assessment requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
In my letter to Kansas on June 27, 2006, I enumerated the fundamental components as well as a number of additional technical issues that had not met the standards and assessment requirements of the ESEA after the second peer review in May 2006. Specifically, the Department could not approve Kansas' standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the academic achievement standards for mathematics on the general assessment; the comparability of test formats (e.g., computer-based and paper-and-pencil); the lack of evidence regarding the challenging content of the reading assessment; and whether English language learners (ELLs) are being assessed on grade-level expectations in reading and mathematics. Due to the number of fundamental components that had not been met, my letter signaled an intent to withhold 10 percent of Kansas' fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds.
My staff evaluated Kansas' August submission and found that it does not resolve all outstanding issues and, thus, Kansas' standards and assessment system still does not meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. Specifically, there remain fundamental concerns regarding the comparability of test formats (e.g., computer-based and paper-and-pencil) and the lack of evidence regarding the challenging content of the reading assessment. However, Kansas' new evidence is sufficient to address concerns with the academic achievement standards for mathematics on the general assessment and that ELLs are being assessed on grade-level expectations in reading and mathematics. Please note that this initial review did not include the evidence submitted related to the development of the Kansas Alternate Assessment (KAA). Evidence of the standard setting, technical quality, and alignment of the KAA, while necessary for full compliance with the ESEA, was not cited as a fundamental concern in my letter on June 27; therefore, these materials will be considered as part of the next peer review of the Kansas standards and assessment system.
Because Kansas' additional submission of evidence does not resolve all outstanding issues, the status of Kansas' standards and assessment system remains Approval Pending. However, due to the fact that Kansas was able to show cause that it had satisfactorily addressed two of the four fundamental components listed in my letter on June 27, 2006, the Department will not withhold Title I, Part A administrative funds for fiscal year 2006. Please note, however, that Kansas must address all remaining issues in order to have a fully compliant standards and assessment system under the ESEA by the end of the 2006-07 school year. Please refer to the enclosure for a revised list of the evidence Kansas must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.
Because the status of Kansas' standards and assessment system is still Approval Pending, Kansas continues to be under Mandatory Oversight, as authorized under 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, we placed specific conditions on Kansas' fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. In addition, Kansas must provide, not later than 20 business days from receipt of this letter, any changes to the plan and detailed timeline submitted on August 8, 2006, for how it will meet the remaining requirements to come into full compliance by the end of the 2006-07 school year. Beginning in November 2006, Kansas must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, Kansas 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 Kansas' fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Kansas.
I appreciate the steps Kansas has taken toward meeting the requirements of the ESEA and I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system. We are committed to helping you get there. I appreciate your willingness to join the LEP Partnership; we believe that this is the first step in providing Kansas, and all States, assistance in improving the assessment of ELLs. We also remain available to provide technical assistance regarding other issues that you identify. 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 discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Sue Rigney (Sue.Rigney@ed.gov) or Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Kathleen Sebelius
Summary of Additional Evidence that Kansas Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the Kansas Assessment System
2.0 - ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS
- Detailed plan and timeline for revising the mathematics performance level descriptors associated with the general assessment and the performance level descriptors for the Kansas Assessment of Multiple Measures (KAMM) in all content areas to ensure appropriate differentiation across levels, grades, and tests.
- Evidence of achievement standard-setting for the regular test, the Kansas Alternate Assessment (KAA), and the KAMM with an accurate description of the procedures used, including qualifications and diversity of participants.
- Evidence of Board adoption of the achievement standards for reading and mathematics for the regular test, the KAA, and the KAMM.
3.0 - FULL ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
- Results of completed studies that demonstrate comparability at the proficient level between the regular test in paper and pencil format and in computer format.
- Evidence that the reading assessments include challenging content. The evidence submitted for mathematics (Assessment Framework Information Math) could be used as a model for this task.
4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY
- Completed studies that document item interrelationships and structural consistency; criterion validity; and standard setting.
- A detailed timeline for completing the data collection necessary for studies of consequential validity and for completing these studies.
- Detailed test specifications (such as those provided for the general mathematics assessment) for the general reading assessment, the KAA, and the KAMM assessments.
- Detailed test administration, training, and scoring manuals for the KAA and the KAMM.
- A description of how the State monitors and evaluates the availability of accommodations for limited English proficient (LEP) students and for students with disabilities during testing.
- Documentation, including having the vendor evaluate and produce detailed reports of the reliability data for all assessments, particularly the KAA, including score reliability at the cut points.
- Completed comprehensive technical manuals that provide technical quality documentation for the general assessments and all alternate assessments.
5.0 - ALIGNMENT
- For the reading test, the KAA, and the KAMM, provide test specifications that are detailed enough to support the creation of test forms that: are comparable over time; comprehensively represent the target indicators on any test form; are aligned with the content and skills aspects of its content standards; reflect the same degree and pattern of emphasis as are reflected in the State's content standards; and reflect the knowledge and skills represented in Kansas' achievement standards.
- Results from the external, independent alignment study scheduled for November 2006.
- Information regarding the potential inclusion of constructed-response items on test forms and how the inclusion of these items is expected to affect alignment with the target standards.
- Evidence of how the State identified its assessed indicators.
- Clarification of how the KAA is aligned comprehensively with the standards in each content area.
- Explanation of why functional indicators are represented in the extended standards document and how the inclusion of these indicators improves access to the general academic curriculum at the student's grade level.
- Detailed description of the process, including information about the participants in the process, used to develop the Kansas Extended Standards.
- Detailed plans, including standard-setting method, and a timeline for identifying the alternate academic achievement standards on the KAA.
6.0 - INCLUSION
- Clarification of the process for determining how students participate in the assessment system, including the State's exemption policies and guidelines for identifying students to take the KAA and the KAMM.
- Evidence that the KAMM is based on grade-level content standards.
- Clarification that LEP students are tested in English after they have been enrolled in schools in the United States for three years.
7.0 - REPORTING
- Evidence that the State reports disaggregated participation and performance data for males and females. The State must also clarify that the participation and performance results are based on the students enrolled at the time of testing and are not adjusted for the "full academic year."
- Evidence that parents are informed when a child's achievement is based on alternate achievement standards.
- Sample student reports along with explanatory information provided to help parents understand the results.