February 26, 2008
The Honorable Richard P. Mills
New York State Education Department
111 Education Building
Albany, New York 12234
Dear Commissioner Mills:
I am pleased to approve New York's standards and assessment system beginning 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 congratulate you on meeting this important NCLB requirement; an assessment system that produces valid and reliable results is fundamental to a State's accountability system.
My decision is based on input from peer reviewers external to the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) and Department staff who reviewed and carefully considered the evidence submitted by New York. I have concluded that the evidence demonstrates that New York's standards and assessment system satisfies the ESEA requirements. Specifically, New York's system includes academic content and student achievement standards in reading/language arts, mathematics, and science; alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in those subjects; assessments in each of grades 3 through 10 in reading/language arts and mathematics; assessments in science in three grade spans; and alternate assessments for each subject.
Accordingly, New York's system warrants Full Approval with Recommendations. This status means that New York's standards and assessment system meets all statutory and regulatory requirements for reading/language arts, mathematics, and science. There is, however, one component of the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA), the alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards, that we believe could be strengthened. Specifically, we recommend that, during the second round of the standards-setting process for the NYSAA, scheduled for 2008, New York review the alternate performance level descriptors (APLDs) to ensure they clearly specify the content knowledge and skills that must be demonstrated at each performance level and are clearly linked to grade-level content standards, rather than access skills, by more clearly specifying terms used in the APLDs.
Please be aware that approval of New York's standards and assessment system under ESEA is not a determination that the system complies with Federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Finally, please remember that, if New York makes significant changes to its assessment system, the State must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval.
We have found it a pleasure working with your staff on this review. Please accept my congratulations on your State's approved standards and assessment system under ESEA. I wish you well in your continued efforts to improve student achievement in New York.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Eliot Spitzer