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Utah Assessment Letter

May 8, 2006

The Honorable Patti Harrington, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Utah State Office of Education
PO Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200

Dear Superintendent Harrington:

I am pleased to approve Utah's assessment system under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). I congratulate you on meeting this important NCLB requirement.

My decision is based on input from peer reviewers external to the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) and Department staff that reviewed and carefully considered the evidence submitted by Utah. I have concluded that the evidence demonstrates that Utah's standards and assessment system satisfies the NCLB requirements. Specifically, Utah'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, Utah's system warrants Full Approval with Recommendations. This status means that Utah's standards and assessment system meets all statutory and regulatory requirements; however, some elements of the system could be improved. As more computer-based tests (CBTs) are brought on line, I would recommend that Utah conduct more rigorous comparability studies between the results rendered by the CBT and the paper-pencil version. Utah presented an array of accommodations for students with disabilities and limited English proficiency. I would also recommend that Utah study the implementation of these accommodations, their efficacy, and their continued validity. Lastly, I would recommend that Utah conduct additional alignment studies to confirm or expand on the current work, particularly for the alternate assessment in science.

I understand that Utah plans to improve its alternate assessment for next year. I would encourage completion of those activities now underway and look forward to their submission for peer review, if Utah intends to use a new alternate assessment for accountability purposes under NCLB.

Please be aware that approval of Utah's assessment system under NCLB 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 Utah makes significant changes in 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 for your State's approved standards and assessment system under NCLB. I wish you well in your continued efforts to improve student achievement in Utah.

Sincerely,

Henry L. Johnson

cc: Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Judy Park

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Last Modified: 05/19/2006