Administrators LEAD & MANAGE MY SCHOOL
New Mexico Assesment Letter

April 18, 2007

The Honorable Veronica C. Garcia
Secretary of Education
State of New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

Dear Secretary Garcia:

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).

In the letter to you on June 22, 2006, the Department 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. Specifically, the Department could not approve New Mexico's standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the technical quality of all assessments, in particular the decision accuracy, the consistency and the appropriateness of accommodations and the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (the New Mexico Alternate Assessment, or NMALT).

The evidence New Mexico submitted for peer review on September 20-21, 2006, and March 1, 2007, demonstrated a major element of the assessment system, the regular assessment, meets all NCLB standards and assessment requirements. However, there was not sufficient evidence provided to address all required elements regarding the new alternate academic achievement standards and the alternate assessment based on those alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Because the peer review did not resolve all outstanding issues, the status of New Mexico's standards and assessment system remains Approval Pending.

The enclosure provides a detailed list of the evidence New Mexico must still submit to meet the requirements for a fully approved standards and assessment system. I encourage you to bring in all available evidence for review by the peers at the earliest possible convenience. Please note that New Mexico must address all outstanding issues in order to have a fully compliant standards and assessment system under the ESEA by the end of the 2006-07 school year. New Mexico continues to be under Mandatory Oversight, as authorized under 34 C.F.R. §80.12, and the condition on your Title I, Part A grant award will continue.

I appreciate the steps New Mexico 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 and remain available to provide technical assistance regarding issues that you identify. Toward that end, let me reiterate our offer of technical assistance. 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 Grace Ross (grace.ross@ed.gov) or Abigail Potts (abigail.potts@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
Acting Assistant Secretary

Enclosure

cc: Governor Bill Richardson
Don Watson


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

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 administered at least once in the 10-12 grade span.
  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 achievement standards.
  4. Documentation that the State has reported separately the number and percent of those students with disabilities assessed against alternate 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 the selection of judges, methodology employed, and final results.
  3. For the alternate assessment(s), 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 students, including students with disabilities and 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. That the State has 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 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. 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 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 - REPORTS

  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 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 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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