June 27, 2006
The Honorable Richard P. Mills
New York State Education Department
111 Education Building
Albany, New York 12234
Dear Commissioner Mills:
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). 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 New York’s standards and assessments, which occurred February 15-16, 2006. The results of this peer review process indicated that additional evidence was necessary for New York to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. At this time, the need for that evidence remains.
As you will 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 New York standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that New York’s standards and assessment system administered in the 2005–06 school year has at least one fundamental component that is missing or 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 evidence New York submitted indicates the State can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006–07 school year.
New York’s system has one fundamental component that warrants the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, we cannot approve New York’s assessments for students with disabilities (SWD) or English Language Learners (ELL). The New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) is not sufficiently comparable to the regular English language arts assessment to use the English language proficiency assessment as a substitute language arts assessment for limited English proficient students. New York’s current practice of administering an out-of-level assessment to ungraded special education students who are not eligible for the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards is not approvable. Under NCLB, all students must participate in either the regular assessment based on grade level achievement standards or the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. New York must cease including the results from ungraded students taking out-of-level assessments when calculating AYP. Finally, the New York alternate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities is not linked to grade level content standards. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of evidence New York must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.
Accordingly, New York is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on New York’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. New York 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, New York must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, New York 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 New York’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in New York.
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 request reconsideration of the conditions, please do not hesitate to contact Abigail Potts (firstname.lastname@example.org)or Sue Rigney (email@example.com) of my staff.
cc: Governor George E. Pataki
Summary of Additional Evidence that New York Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the New York Assessment System
2.0 – ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS
- Cut scores (grades 3-8 English language arts and mathematics) recommended to the Board of Regents and the process for setting them, with evidence that diverse stakeholders were included in the standard setting activities.
- Performance level descriptors in English language arts and mathematics (grades 3-8) that specify student knowledge/skills associated with each performance level within each grade.
- Regents approval of the final achievement standards in English language arts and mathematics, grades 3-8.
- Empirical data showing that achievement levels on the NYSESLAT are comparable to achievement levels on the regular test in terms of content covered and level of challenge.
3.0 – FULL ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
- Documentation showing that results from translated versions of the assessments are sufficiently comparable to results from the regular assessment to permit aggregation of results across assessments.
- Documentation showing that results from the NYSESLAT are sufficiently comparable to results from the regular English language arts assessment to permit aggregation of results across assessments or evidence that the State will use the NYSESLAT only as a test of English proficiency in future.
4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY
- Evidence of internal consistency and other validity characteristics of all new assessments with regard to scores and subscores for the new assessments in English language arts and mathematics, grades 3-8.
- Evidence of reliability of all assessments across form, across years and for relevant subgroups (similar data required for Regents) for the new assessments in English language arts and mathematics, grades 3-8.
- Equating details and quality assurance procedures used for all assessments.
- Procedures for developing, scoring, and reporting accommodated assessments for LEP students for the new assessments in English language arts and mathematics, grades 3-8.
- Validity data supporting inferences made from accommodations (for LEP students, SWD, and Section 504 students) used during testing for the new assessments in English language arts and mathematics, grades 3-8.
5.0 - ALIGNMENT
- More information about test development (grades 3-8), particularly the procedures for assembling test forms to ensure alignment with the content standards.
- A description of the ongoing system of improvement to improve alignment when gaps are noted, i.e. the NYSESLAT.
- Evidence of alignment between the NYSAA alternate achievement standards and the newly adopted grade level expectations.
- Documentation that NYSAA datafolio contents are consistent with the API tasks and the NYSAA scoring rubric.
6.0 - INCLUSION
- Test participation data, including the number of students enrolled, the number who took the regular test, the NYSAA and the NYSESLAT in grades 3-8 for English language arts, mathematics and science.
- Updated policy on how “ungraded” students will be included in AYP calculations and the number of students involved.
7.0 – REPORTS
- Sample item analysis report at the classroom level.