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South Dakota Assessment Letter

May 25, 2007

The Honorable Rick Melmer
Secretary of Education
South Dakota Department of Education
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2291

Dear Secretary Melmer:

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 a letter to you on November 22, 2006, the Department enumerated the fundamental components as well as a number of additional technical issues of South Dakota's system that had not met the standards and assessment requirements of the ESEA. Specifically, the Department could not approve South Dakota's standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with technical quality, including the validity and reliability of the assessment system, and the alignment of South Dakota's assessments with the State's academic content and achievement standards.

On March 21-22, 2007, peer reviewers and Department staff evaluated South Dakota's submission of additional evidence and found that the system still does not meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. Specifically, based on the peer review of the additional evidence, there remain concerns regarding the technical quality of the assessment system and the alignment of South Dakota's assessments with the State academic content and achievement standards. The enclosure provides a detailed list of the evidence South Dakota 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 South Dakota 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. Because the peer review did not resolve all outstanding issues, the status of South Dakota's standards and assessment system remains Approval Pending. Accordingly, South Dakota 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 South Dakota 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. The Department will peer review the additional evidence submitted for the May peer review as well as any additional evidence submitted in early June before providing a final status of the South Dakota standards and assessment system by July 1. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Valeria Ford ( or Abigail Potts ( of my staff.


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


cc: Governor Mike Rounds
Diane Lowery
Gay Pickner



  1. Reliability scores for all required subgroups, including economically disadvantaged students.
  2. Results of the study planned for spring 2007 to determine that students with disabilities are accommodated in a manner consistent with instructional approaches for each student, as determined by a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan.
  3. A specific plan for the development of additional forms of the State Test of Educational Progress (STEP) tests to improve the validity of the assessment system over time. This should include steps taken to ensure the consistency of test forms over time such as procedures to be used to equate, or link, the tests.
  4. A report of how the results of the Bias Review Committees were used to make changes in the tests to demonstrate the State has a system for monitoring and improving the on-going quality of its assessment system.
  5. The final 2007 Technical Report.


  1. Documentation on how the STEP and STEP-A tests are aligned to the academic content standards and achievement standards to demonstrate the assessments:
    1. Reflect the full range of the State content standards;
    2. Measure the depth of the standards; and
    3. Reflect the degree of cognitive complexity and level of difficulty of the concepts and processes described in the State content standards.
  2. Clarification regarding the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced classifications of items on the STEP assessments used in alignment review and how this analysis demonstrates that the assessments reflect the degree of difficulty and cognitive complexity of the State academic content standards.
  3. Documentation that sufficient items are in the item pool to develop tests to match the blueprint. Cognitive complexity classifications should be included in the blueprints.


  1. Steps taken to ensure the participation of all students in statewide assessments, including documentation of information distributed to districts and schools regarding inclusion of all students and reports that show inclusion.
  2. A plan for how South Dakota will verify the accuracy of data reported from the contractor.
  3. A plan to verify that the demographic and assessment data are accurate.
  4. Final accurate data on the participation of all student groups, included in the 2007 Technical Report.

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Last Modified: 05/30/2007