June 29, 2007
The Honorable Douglas D. Christensen
Commissioner of Education
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall, South, 6th Floor
P.O. Box 94987
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509-4987
Dear Commissioner Christensen:
I am writing regarding Nebraska's standards and assessment system under Title I 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 Nebraska's efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.
In a letter to you on September 15, 2006, the Department identified two fundamental components in addition to a number of technical issues in Nebraska's standards and assessment system that had not met the requirements of the ESEA. Specifically, there remained outstanding concerns with the comparability of the English language proficiency assessment used as a proxy for the reading assessment for limited English proficient (LEP) students and the completion of Nebraska's peer review process to determine whether each district's assessment system meets the ESEA requirements of a full assessment system.
I understand that Nebraska has recently submitted information that will be peer reviewed in the next few weeks and that this evidence is likely to address many, if not all, of these concerns. Therefore, we are not assigning an approval status to Nebraska's standards and assessment system at this time. Because that system is not fully approved, however, we will place a condition on Nebraska's fiscal year 2007 Title I, Part A grant award.
After the peer review, if Nebraska's evidence has not resolved the remaining issues, we will take appropriate enforcement actions as outlined in the Department's May 10, 2007 fact sheet, including the possibility of continuing Mandatory Oversight pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. For your convenience, I am enclosing a copy of that fact sheet, which is also available on the Department's website (http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/statesystems.html).
We look forward to working with Nebraska to support a high-quality standards and assessment system. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call Zollie Stevenson (202-260-1824) or Abigail Potts (202-260-2465) of my staff.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Marilyn Peterson