June 28, 2006
The Honorable Richard H. Cate
Vermont Department of Education
120 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2501
Dear Commissioner Cate:
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 peer review of Vermont's standards and assessments, which occurred May 10-12, 2006. The results of this peer review process indicated that additional evidence was necessary for Vermont to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. At this time, the need for that evidence 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 Vermont standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that Vermont's standards and assessment system administered in the 2005-06 school year has one fundamental component that is missing or that does 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 Vermont can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.
Vermont's system has one fundamental component that warrants the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve Vermont's standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the academic achievement standards, technical quality, and alignment of the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (the Lifeskills Portfolio). Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence Vermont must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.
Accordingly, Vermont is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on Vermont's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. Vermont 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, Vermont must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, Vermont does not meet the timeline set forth in its plan, the Department will initiate proceedings, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, to withhold 10 percent of Vermont's fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Vermont.
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 request reconsideration of the conditions, 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 Jim Douglas
Summary of Additional Evidence that Vermont Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the Vermont Assessment System
1.0 ACADEMIC CONTENT STANDARDS
- Approval of academic content standards in science by the State Board.
- Documentation of formal adoption of the GLEs by the State Board.
2.0 ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS
- Science academic achievement descriptors.
- Descriptions of grade-specific competencies associated with each achievement level and provide documentation of formal adoption for all assessments (i.e., NECAP and alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards).
- Verification of sufficiently diverse stakeholders involvement in the development of academic achievement standards for all assessments.
- Documentation of formal approval of the alternate achievement standards.
4.0 TECHNICAL QUALITY
- A completed technical manual for the NECAP that includes:
- An investigation of the relationship of the domains and sub-categories.
- Studies of the relationship of the NECAP with external measures.
- Interpretation of the reliability information for the total test, sub scores, and classification consistency at the cut scores.
- Test development process, bias and sensitivity review, test form construction as well as the expertise of the panelists involved in these processes (e.g., race/ethnicity, special populations, region, and student SES populations).
- Detailed plan for equating tests from year to year, including the number of horizontal linking items used between years and the methodology for equating the items and tests.
- A quality control process for monitoring test administrations including: administration irregularities and accommodation usage.
- Appropriateness of the accommodations allowed and what impact those accommodations have on the test scores.
- Completed technical manual for the alternate assessment.
- Criteria used for scoring the alternate assessment and a copy of the score range, both raw and scale scores.
- Clear description of how the test development process for NECAP supports the alignment of the test and academic standards including:
- Item specifications in final form.
- Finalized test specifications and designs.
- Examples of cognitive level coding of items.
- Test design tables used for constructing each test.
- Test maps.
- The process for assessing the degree of match between the test maps and the test design.
- How the test development process establishes and maintains alignment to the GLEs.
- The State must conduct an independent alignment study or provide results from another appropriate procedure for the NECAP and the alternate assessment to confirm that the final test forms are aligned with the State's standards.
- Linkage between the academic content standards in mathematics and reading and the alternate achievement standards.
- Policies adopted by the State regarding the participation of every limited English proficient (LEP) student in the assessment system, including policies regarding LEP students "new to the country," and participation of migrant and other mobile students.
- Information on the percent of students tested by subgroup needs to be provided.
- NSRE performance results must be reported by "content standards" or by achievement levels on the individual student reports.