May 13, 2014
The Honorable Mick Zais
State Superintendent of Education
South Carolina Department of Education
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Dear Superintendent Zais:
I am writing in response to your letter of April 22, 2014, to Secretary Arne Duncan indicating that the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has decided to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and has decided not to use the assessments developed by SBAC. To meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility, a State educational agency (SEA) must develop annual, Statewide, high-quality assessments, and corresponding academic achievement standards, in reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. These assessments must be fully implemented no later than the 2014–2015 school year. Among other characteristics, a high-quality assessment must be valid, reliable, and fair for its intended purposes, be aligned with a State’s college- and career-ready content standards, and provide an accurate measure of student growth over a full academic year or course. In its approved ESEA flexibility request, SCDE met this requirement through its participation in SBAC. Because SCDE is no longer participating in SBAC, it must amend its ESEA flexibility request to demonstrate how it will meet the requirement to administer high-quality assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics by the 2014–2015 school year. This letter details how SCDE must amend its request in order to remain in compliance with ESEA flexibility requirements.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) provided an SEA with three options to address how it would meet the requirement to develop and administer high-quality assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards: (1) participate in one of the two State assessment consortia — i.e., PARCC or SBAC; (2) if the SEA is not in a consortium and has not yet developed high-quality assessments, provide the SEA’s plan to develop and administer those assessments no later than 2014–2015; or (3) if the SEA is not in a consortium but has developed high-quality assessments, it must provide evidence that the SEA submitted those assessments to ED for peer review or provide a timeline of when the SEA will submit them for peer review. You letter indicates that the SCDE will pursue the second option.
Because SCDE is no longer participating in SBAC, SCDE must amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility to provide a high-quality plan that details the steps SCDE will take to adminster a high-quality assessment, as defined in the document titled ESEA Flexibility (available at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/documents/esea-flexibility-acc.doc), in reading/language arts and mathematics by the 2014–2015 school year. As described in the ESEA Flexibility Review Guidance (available at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/documents/review-guidance.doc), such a plan must include, at a minimum, for each key component of the plan, the following elements: (1) key milestones and activities, (2) a detailed timeline, (3) the party or parties responsible, (4) evidence, (5) resources, and (6) significant obstacles. Generally, an SEA’s plan to develop and administer high-quality assessments should address, at a minimum, the following key components:
- the process and timeline for development of test blueprints and item specifications;
- the review and selection of items for inclusion in the assessments;
- scaling and scoring procedures to be used;
- test administration procedures, including selection and use of appropriate accommodations;
- data analyses proposed to document validity and reliability of the assessments;
- an independent evaluation of alignment of the assessments with the State’s college- and career-ready standards;
- the process and timeline for setting college- and career-ready achievement standards and the method and timeline to validate those achievment standards; and
- meaningful report formats to communicate results to students, parents, and educators.
As your letter indicates, if SCDE plans to procure an assessment rather than develop its own, this high- quality plan must still address the issues outlined above.
To amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility, SCDE must submit both the amendment request template (available at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.html) and a redlined version of its currently approved request reflecting that it has changed its approach to developing and administering high-quality assessments. (The high-quality plan described above may either be inserted into the redlined request or submitted as an attachment to the redlined request.) SCDE must submit this amendment request no later than 30 calendar days from the date of this letter. ED will review the request and notify SCDE, in writing, of its determination.
In the coming days, we will contact Karla Hawkins, your ESEA flexibility lead, to check in regarding your amendment request. In the meantime, please refer to the document titled ESEA Flexibility Amendment Submission Process (available at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/amendment-submission-process.doc), which describes the steps that are necessary as part of requesting an amendment. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Elizabeth Witt of my staff at:Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Karla Hawkins, South Carolina Department of Education