Alabama Assessment Letter


June 29, 2006

The Honorable Joseph B. Morton State Superintendent of Education Gordon Persons Building PO Box 302101 Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2101

Dear Superintendent Morton:

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 November 10, 2005. In that letter, we presented the results of the peer review of the Alabama standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for Alabama to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. A second peer review in May 2006 was not sufficient to resolve all of the outstanding issues presented in the letter on November 10, 2005.

As you may 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 Alabama system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that Alabama’s standards and assessment system administered in 2005-06 has one fundamental component 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 Alabama can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.

Alabama’s system has one fundamental component that warrants the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, we cannot approve Alabama’s alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Specifically, there are concerns about the lack of evidence regarding the achievement standards, technical quality, and alignment of the alternate assessment to the content standards. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of evidence Alabama must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Accordingly, Alabama is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on Alabama’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. Alabama 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, Alabama must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, Alabama 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 Alabama’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Alabama.

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 Patrick Rooney ( or Grace Ross ( of my staff.


Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Robert Riley Gloria Turner


Summary of Additional Evidence that Alabama Must Submit to Meet ESEA Requirements for the Alabama Assessment System



  1. Evidence that the State has engaged in a process that results in proficiency levels for the Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA).
  2. Description of the process by which the goals (or other elements) of the AAA assessment are sampled from the content strands with consistent representation across the content strands in reading and mathematics.
  3. Documentation of State approval of the alternate achievement standards.


  1. Documentation that the assessments measure higher-order thinking skills for grades 3, 5, and 7.


  1. Documentation that test and item scores are related to internal or external variables as intended (e.g., scores are correlated strongly with relevant measures of academic achievement and are weakly correlated, if at all, with irrelevant characteristics).
  2. Documentation of whether the assessment system produces intended and unintended consequences.
  3. Results of the proposed “Reliability and Validity Study of the Alabama Alternate Assessment.”
  4. Inter-rater agreement for scoring the AAA assessment.
  5. Description of clear criteria for the administration, scoring, analysis, and reporting components of the AAA assessment.


  1. Documentation that Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and, therefore, the AAA assessment are aligned/linked with grade-level content standards or extended standards.


  1. Documentation of how the scores from the AAA are included on the district and State reports.
  2. Documentation of interpretive information for the alternate assessment for parents and teacher.
  3. Documentation of the final individual student reports for the alternate assessment.

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