December 18, 2007
The Honorable Billy K. Cannaday
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Virginia Department of Education
P.O. Box 2120
Richmond, Virginia 23218
Dear Superintendent Cannaday:
I am pleased to approve Virginia's standards and assessment system 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.
My decision is based on input from peer reviewers external to the U.S. Department of Education (Department) and Department staff who reviewed and carefully considered the evidence submitted by Virginia. I have concluded that the evidence demonstrates that Virginia's standards and assessment system satisfies the NCLB requirements. Specifically, Virginia's system includes academic content standards in reading/language arts, mathematics, and science; student academic achievement standards in reading/language arts and mathematics; alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in reading/language arts and mathematics; grade-level assessments in each of grades 3-8 and high school in reading/language arts and mathematics; and alternate assessments in each of grades 3-8 and high school in reading/language arts and mathematics for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. As such, the status of Virginia's system is Full Approval with Recommendations.
This status means that Virginia's standards and assessment system meets all statutory and regulatory requirements; however, some elements of the system could be improved. In particular, the Department recommends that Virginia continue to examine the impact of small sample sizes on the reliability and validity of the VGLA, particularly when administered to LEP students, and the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) through additional collections of evidence and recomputed reliability coefficients, if warranted. The Department also recommends that Virginia develop and implement a plan to address the findings of its alignment study for the Standards of Learning (SOL) reading and mathematics assessments in grades 3-8 and high school and the VGLA.
Concerns were raised during the peer review process regarding the validity of accountability determinations of reading/language arts assessment results when the read-aloud accommodation was used. In order for Virginia to use this accommodation in determinations of adequate yearly progress (AYP) beyond the assessments administered in the 2007-08 school year, Virginia must provide evidence that use of the read-aloud accommodation on the reading/language arts assessments does not impact the validity of the assessment results. Absent such validity evidence, Virginia must count those students who use the accommodation as non-participants for accountability purposes, beginning with AYP determinations made on the 2008-09 test administration.
Please be aware that approval of Virginia's standards and 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.
In addition, please remember that, if Virginia makes significant changes in its assessment system, the State must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval. This includes any change in the administration of the VGLA for LEP students. Consistent with Virginia's assessment policies and the evidence provided to the Department for peer review, results of the VGLA may be included in AYP determinations only for LEP students at the State's lowest two levels of English proficiency.
Finally, to help the Department develop its understanding of how to accurately and appropriately measure the content knowledge of LEP students, we would like to work with Virginia to collect data on the use and impact of the VGLA for LEP students. Martha Snyder my staff will contact you regarding this project.
We have found it a pleasure working with your staff on this review. Please accept my congratulations for Virginia's approved standards and assessment system under NCLB. I wish you well in your continued efforts to improve student achievement in Virginia.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Tim Kaine
State Board of Education President Mark Emblidge