Administrators LEAD & MANAGE MY SCHOOL
North Dakota Assessment Letter

June 22, 2006

Honorable Wayne G. Sanstead
State Superintendent
North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58505-0440

Dear Superintendent Sanstead:

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 (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 peer review of North Dakota's standards and assessments, that occurred in May, 2006. The results of this peer review process indicated that additional evidence was necessary for North Dakota to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA.

As you may 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 North Dakota system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that North Dakota's standards and assessment system administered in 2005-06 has one or more fundamental components 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 North Dakota can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system - that is, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.

North Dakota's system has one fundamental component that warrants the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, we cannot approve North Dakota's alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of evidence North Dakota must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Please note that the peers reviewed North Dakota's alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards for students with persistent academic disabilities. To assist you as you refine this assessment, the peers commented on evidence they determined was still needed. However, we cannot yet approve this assessment because we have not issued final regulations setting out the authority and requirements for developing modified achievement standards and aligned assessments for certain students with disabilities. Thus, that information is provided for your information only. Once the Department has issued final regulations, North Dakota may submit this assessment for peer review.

Accordingly, North Dakota is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on North Dakota's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. North Dakota 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, North Dakota must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, North Dakota 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 10 percent of North Dakota's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in North Dakota.

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 discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Henry L. Johnson

Enclosure

cc: Governor John Hoeven
Greg Gallagher


Summary of Additional Evidence that North Dakota Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the North Dakota Assessment System

1.0 - ACADEMIC CONTENT STANDARDS

  1. Documentation of diverse stakeholder representation in standards development team membership (i.e., individuals representing minorities, limited English proficient students, and students with disabilities).

2.0 - ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS

  1. Documentation of diverse stakeholder representation in the writing of academic achievement descriptors for the North Dakota State Assessment (NDSA) in reading, mathematics, and science.
  2. Descriptions of competencies in reading and mathematics for the North Dakota Alternate assessment (ND-Alt) with at least three levels of achievement, including two levels of high achievement (i.e., proficient and advanced), evidence of stakeholder involvement in their development, and evidence of their formal approval by the State Board.
  3. Descriptions of competencies in science for the ND-Alt with at least three levels of achievement, including two levels of high achievement (i.e., proficient and advanced), and evidence of stakeholder involvement in their development.
  4. Descriptions of policies and procedures that North Dakota will put in place to ensure that parents are informed when a child's achievement will be based on alternate achievement standards. These should go beyond undocumented contact with parents at Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings.

4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY

  1. Additional evidence of technical quality for the NDSA:
    • A plan of additional steps North Dakota will take to ascertain whether the assessment system produces intended and unintended consequences.
  2. Additional evidence of technical quality regarding the use of accommodations for students with disabilities and LEP students:
    • Documentation of procedures to provide for standardized use of accommodations that involve methods of administration and methods of response (i.e., accommodations other than those related to location, setting, and time) to ensure that validity and reliability of the results are maintained.
    • Documentation of procedures to determine whether accommodations for the NDSA administration selected by local educators, beyond those outlined in the test coordinators' manual, invalidate test scores such that they must be excluded for AYP purposes.
    • Documentation of additional steps North Dakota will take to monitor the availability and implementation of accommodations for students with disabilities and limited English proficient students, including a plan to examine whether the use of accommodations yield meaningful scores.
  3. Additional evidence of technical quality for the ND-Alt:
    • Evidence of the validity of the ND-Alt.
    • Additional evidence of the reliability of the ND-Alt.
    • Technical report for the 2005-06 administration of the ND-Alt.
    • A plan for implementing additional steps to ensure consistency in the development of the ND-Alt over time.

5.0 - ALIGNMENT

  1. A plan for using the results of the 2006 alignment studies for ongoing improvement of the NDSA.

6.0 - INCLUSION

  1. Documentation that North Dakota has adopted policies requiring limited English proficient (LEP) students to be assessed on the reading/language arts standards in English if they have been enrolled in U.S. schools for more than three years. This includes policies to ensure that the accommodation of translating the test for LEP students is not used for LEP students who have been enrolled in U.S. schools for more than three years.

7.0 - REPORTING

  1. Revised descriptors for use on the ND-Alt student reports that meet the requirements of Critical Element 2.3 and are sufficient for parent, teacher and principal understanding of the results.

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Last Modified: 06/28/2006