June 22, 2006
The Honorable Shirley Neeley
Commissioner of Education
Texas Educational Agency
William B. Travis Building
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701-1494
Dear Commissioner Neeley:
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 letter that was sent to you on June 17, 2005. In that letter we presented the results of the peer review of the Texas standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for Texas to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. A second peer review in February 2006 was not sufficient to resolve all of the issues. The need for the remaining outstanding evidence, as listed in the enclosure to this letter, 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 Texas standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that Texas' standards and assessment system administered in the 2005-06 school year has three or more fundamental components that are 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 Department believes that Texas can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.
Texas' system has a number of fundamental components that warrant the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve Texas' standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the comparability of tests, alignment of assessments to State content and academic achievement standards, and the use of alternate assessments (e.g. RPTE and LAT). Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence Texas must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.
Accordingly, Texas is placed under Mandatory Oversight, as authorized under 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on Texas' fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. In addition, Texas 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, Texas must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan.
Due to the number of outstanding items that Texas needs to complete to come into compliance with NCLB, the Department intends to withhold 10 percent of the State's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, totaling $1,188,392, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA. Texas has the opportunity, within 20 business days of receipt of this letter, to show cause in writing why we should not withhold these funds. If Texas cannot show cause, the Department will withhold 10 percent of Texas' fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Texas. Moreover, if, at any time, Texas does not meet the timeline set forth in its plan, the Department will initiate proceedings to withhold an additional 10 percent of the State's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds.
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 discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Freeman (Catherine.Freeman@ed.gov) or Valeria Ford (Valeria.Ford@ed.gov) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Rick Perry
Summary of Additional Evidence that Texas Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the Texas Assessment System
2.0 - ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS
- Results of the January 2006 content specific performance descriptor development;
- Alternate achievement standards, as required in the compliance agreement;
- Content validity and comparability of results to support use of the RPTE results for accountability;
- Spanish version TAKS standard-setting process conducted independently of the English TAKS results; and
- RPTE achievement standards linked to the TAKS achievement standards.
3.0- FULL ASSESSMENT SYSTEM
- Alignment studies demonstrating alignment of the Spanish TAKS to the TEKS and comparing these results to the English TAKS alignment; and
- Results of the comparability studies planned for the RPTE-II including:
- Analysis of the performance on non-LEP students on RPTE II items.
- Webb alignment study for RPTE to the TEKS and comparing these results to the English TAKS alignment.
- Statistical analysis of the relationship between performance of LEP students on both TAKS and RPTE.
4.0 - TECHNICAL QUALITY
- Analysis, results, and recommendations from alignment studies conducted for all assessments that comprise the Texas assessment system and used for determining AYP;
- Resolution of the TAC's recommendation pertaining to challenges inherent in the external field test equating design for TAKS tests and the need to re-examine equating procedures, (see Document 20, pp. 3-5);
- Comparability of the LATs used to assess mathematics for LEP students to the TAKS;
- Documentation of the standard-setting process for the Spanish TAKS; and
- Description of the equating process used when another test form is used in the same year.
5.0 - ALIGNMENT
- Alignment study results and use of those results to fully align all assessments (TAKS, LAT, SDAA, SDAA II, LDAA, RPTE) to the State content and academic achievement standards;
- Documentation that shows the alignment of each test item to the standards and sub-content areas in terms of depth of cognitive complexity;
- Process used to guide "ongoing TAKS development efforts" based on the results of the alignment studies;
- Summary information on how the item review committee results were put to use; and
- Documentation on alignment of the Spanish and English versions of the TAKS and their respective achievement standards.
6.0 - INCLUSION
- Documentation that includes a clear description of the participation of every student in the assessments used for accountability purposes. It should be apparent how many students in each significant subgroup are participating in each assessment, how that assessment assigns the level of proficient for accountability purposes, and how many students did not participate in any standards-based assessment (used in the accountability system). Students who take the LAT for Mathematics should be identified in the documentation.
7.0 - REPORTING
- Documentation that includes a clear description of the participation of every student in the assessments used for accountability purposes. It should be apparent how many students in each significant subgroup are participating in each assessment, how that assessment assigns the level of proficient for accountability purposes, and how many students did not participate in any standards-based assessment (used in the accountability system). Students who take the LAT for Mathematics should be identified in the reports;
- Summary reports that show SDAA students' AYP status is included at the enrolled grade; and
- RPTE results relative to the TAKS performance standards.