About ED OVERVIEW
New Hampshire Assessment Letter

September 28, 2007

The Honorable Lyonel B. Tracy
Commissioner of Education
New Hampshire Department of Education
101 Pleasant Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301

Dear Commissioner Tracy:

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). We appreciate the hard work you and your staff have undertaken to address many of the Department's previous concerns with New Hampshire's assessment system and the efforts required to prepare for the latest peer review that occurred in July 2007.

In a June 29, 2007, letter to you, I enumerated one fundamental component as well as a number of additional technical issues that had not met the standards and assessment requirements of the ESEA. Specifically, the Department could not approve New Hampshire's standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns regarding New Hampshire's alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (NH-ALT). The evidence New Hampshire submitted for peer review on July 27, 2007, demonstrated that New Hampshire's general assessment, the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), meets all NCLB standards and assessment requirements. However, we continue to have concerns regarding the NH-ALT with respect to the alternate academic achievement standards and alignment of the alternate assessment to grade-level content standards. I know that my staff has discussed the results of this latest review with your staff, and I appreciate your taking the time for those discussions. Based on these conversations, we understand that New Hampshire is planning to address our concerns with the NH-ALT as the State also works to develop a new alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards. The evidence needed to address the remaining concerns with the NH-ALT is provided in Attachment A of this letter. As New Hampshire moves forward in its development of a new alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards, the State will need to address the full list of evidence presented in Attachment B of this letter.

Because New Hampshire was not able to address the deficiencies of the NH-ALT for administration during the 2006-07 school year, the status of New Hampshire's system remains Approval Pending. Under this status, the condition on New Hampshire's fiscal year 2007 Title I, Part A grant award will continue. New Hampshire may include, however, the results of the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations for the 2006-07 school year, so long as the percentage of proficient and advanced scores on that assessment does not exceed one (1.0) percent of all students in the grades assessed at the district or State level.

Due to the length of time that we expect it will take for New Hampshire to address the remaining concerns with the NH-ALT and the time needed to develop a new alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards, we ask that New Hampshire enter into a Compliance Agreement with the Department, as authorized by Section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA). The purpose of a Compliance Agreement is to enable a grantee to remain eligible to receive funding while coming into full compliance with applicable requirements as soon as feasible but within three years. The Department and New Hampshire will need to agree on the components of the Compliance Agreement, including a detailed plan and specific timeline for how the State will accomplish the steps necessary to bring its system into compliance. For example, New Hampshire may need to contract with outside experts or technical assistance providers knowledgeable in the areas of non-compliance. The compliance agreement must also include a budget for each year the agreement is in place that demonstrates that New Hampshire has committed sufficient resources to correct the areas of non-compliance. In addition, before entering into a Compliance Agreement, the Department must hold a hearing to explore why full compliance with the Title I standards and assessment requirements is not feasible until a future date. The State, affected students and their parents, and other interested parties may participate. The Department must publish findings of noncompliance and the substance of the Compliance Agreement in the Federal Register.

I appreciate New Hampshire's participation in the July 25, 2007, Special Education Partnership - Alternate Assessment Technical Assistance Meeting. We hope you found the assistance helpful toward understanding the steps New Hampshire needs to take to address the remaining concerns with the NH-ALT. We are committed to helping you develop a compliant alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards, and we remain available to provide technical assistance.

I appreciate the steps New Hampshire 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. 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 Martha Snyder (Martha.Snyder@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.

Enclosures

cc: Tim Kurtz
Deb Wiswell
Gaye Fedorchak


SUMMARY OF ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE THAT NEW HAMPSHIRE MUST SUBMIT TO MEET ESEA REQUIREMENTS FOR THE NEW HAMPSHIRE STANDARDS AND ASSESSMENT SYSTEM

NOTE: If New Hampshire intends to revise the existing alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (NH-Alt), it should provide the following list of evidence.

2.0 - ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS

  1. Evidence that the alternate academic achievement standards include, for each content area:
    1. At least three levels of achievement, including two levels of high achievement (e.g., proficient and advanced) that determine how well students are mastering a State's academic content standards, and a third level of achievement (e.g., basic) to provide information about the progress of lower-achieving students toward mastering the proficient and advanced levels of achievement;
    2. Descriptions of the competencies associated with each achievement level; and
    3. Assessment scores ("cut scores") that differentiate among the achievement levels
  2. Documentation of the development of academic achievement descriptors for the alternate assessment in the content area of science.
  3. Description of academic content competencies, as opposed to programmatic and behavioral activities, associated with each achievement level in reading, mathematics, and science.
  4. Formal adoption of academic content competencies associated with each achievement level in reading, mathematics and science.
  5. Representation of a diverse panel of educators that include curriculum and content specialists in standard setting for the alternate assessment.

4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY

  1. For the alternate assessment, evidence that the State has documented validity (in addition to the alignment of the alternate assessment with the content standards), as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA/APA/NCME, 1999).
  2. For the alternate assessments, evidence that the State has provided documentation of the standard setting process including a description of the selection of judges, methodology employed, and final results.
  3. For the alternate assessments, evidence that the State has considered the issue of reliability, as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA/APA/NCME, 1999).
  4. Evidence that the State has established:
    1. Clear criteria for the administration, scoring, analysis, and reporting components of its alternate assessment; and
    2. A system for monitoring and improving the on-going quality of its alternate assessment.

5.0 - ALIGNMENT

  1. Documentation that the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (the items or tasks to which students respond) reflects both the content and skills specified in the academic achievement standards.
  2. Documentation that the alternate academic achievement standards are linked to reading and math grade-level expectations (GLEs).

SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE NEEDED TO MEET ESEA REQUIREMENTS FOR A NEWLY DEVELOPED ALTERNATE ASSESSMENT BASED ON ALTERNATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE NEEDED TO MEET ESEA REQUIREMENTS FOR A NEWLY DEVELOPED ALTERNATE ASSESSMENT BASED ON ALTERNATE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS

NOTE: If New Hampshire develops a brand new alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards, it should provide the following list of evidence.

2.0 - ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS

  1. Evidence of approved/adopted alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in reading/language arts and mathematics for each of grades 3 through 8 and high school.
  2. Evidence that the alternate academic achievement standards include, for each content area:
    1. At least three levels of achievement, including two levels of high achievement (e.g., proficient and advanced) that determine how well students are mastering a State's academic content standards and a third level of achievement (e.g., basic) to provide information about the progress of lower-achieving students toward mastering the proficient and advanced levels of achievement;
    2. Descriptions of the competencies associated with each achievement level; and
    3. Assessment scores ("cut scores") that differentiate among the achievement levels
  3. Evidence that the Board or other authority has adopted all alternate academic achievement standards.
  4. Documentation that the State has reported separately the number and percent of those students with disabilities assessed against alternate academic achievement standards, those assessed on an alternate assessment against grade-level standards, and those included in the regular assessment (including those administered with appropriate accommodations).
  5. Evidence that the State has documented the involvement of diverse stakeholders in the development of its alternate academic achievement standards.

4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY

  1. Evidence that the State has documented validity (in addition to the alignment of the alternate assessment with the content standards), as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA/APA/NCME, 1999).
  2. For the alternate assessments, evidence that the State has provided documentation of the standard setting process including a description of the selection of judges, methodology employed, and final results.
  3. For the alternate assessments, evidence that the State has considered the issue of reliability, as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA/APA/NCME, 1999).
  4. Evidence that the State has ensured that its alternate assessment system is fair and accessible to all eligible students, including students with limited English proficiency.
  5. Evidence that the State has taken steps, such as bias review of items, to ensure fairness in the development of the alternate assessment.
  6. When different test forms or formats are used for the alternate assessment, evidence that the State has ensured that the meaning and interpretation of results are consistent.
  7. Evidence that the State has established:
    1. Clear criteria for the administration, scoring, analysis, and reporting components of its alternate assessment; and
    2. A system for monitoring and improving the on-going quality of its alternate assessment.

5.0 - ALIGNMENT

  1. Evidence that the State has taken steps to ensure alignment between its alternate assessment and the State's academic content and alternate academic achievement standards.
  2. Evidence that the State has developed ongoing procedures to maintain and improve alignment between the alternate assessment and standards over time, particularly if gaps have been noted.

6.0 - INCLUSION

  1. Evidence that the State has implemented alternate assessments for students whose disabilities do not permit them to participate in the regular assessment even with accommodations.
  2. Evidence of guidelines and training that the State has in place to ensure that all students with disabilities taking the alternate are included appropriately in the State assessment system.
  3. Evidence that the State has developed clear guidelines for Individualized Educational Program (IEP) Teams to apply in determining which assessment is most appropriate for a student.
  4. Regarding the alternate achievement standards:
    1. Evidence that the State has developed clear guidelines for IEP Teams to apply in determining when a child's cognitive disability justifies assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards; and
    2. Evidence of the steps the State has taken to help regular and special education teachers and other appropriate staff know how to administer assessments, including making use of accommodations, for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

7.0 - REPORTING

  1. Evidence that the State's reporting system facilitates appropriate, credible, and defensible interpretation and use of its alternate assessment data.
  2. Evidence that the State has provided for the production of individual interpretive, descriptive, and [non-clinical] diagnostic reports that indicate relative strengths and instructional needs:
    1. Evidence that these individual student reports express results in terms of the State's alternate academic achievement standards rather than numerical values such as scale scores or percentiles;
    2. Evidence that these individual student reports provide information for parents, teachers, and principals to help them understand and address a student's specific academic needs. This information must be displayed in a format and language that is understandable to parents, teachers, and principals, for example through the use of descriptors that describe what students know and can do at different performance levels. The reports must be accompanied by interpretive guidance for these audiences; and
  3. Evidence that the State ensures that these individual student reports will be delivered to parents, teachers, and principals as soon as possible after the alternate assessment is administered.

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Last Modified: 10/05/2007