Alabama Science Assessment Letter

October 1, 2008

The Honorable Joseph B. Morton
State Superintendent of Education
Alabama Department of Education
P.O. Box 302101
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2101

Dear Superintendent Morton:

I am writing regarding our review of Alabama’s science assessments under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

As outlined in my letter of February 28, 2008, states had to meet four basic requirements in science for the 2007-08 school year. In particular, each state was required to: (1) have approved content standards in science; (2) administer a regular and alternate science assessment in each of three grade spans; (3) include all students in those assessments; and (4) report the results of the regular and alternate science assessments on state, district, and school report cards. After reviewing the evidence submitted, I am pleased to inform you that it appears that Alabama has met the basic requirements for administering science assessments in 2007-08. However, Alabama has not yet submitted data to the Department demonstrating that all students were included in the science assessments. Please let us know within 10 days of receipt of this letter when Alabama will have those data available so that we can confirm that it has, in fact, met the basic requirements for administering science assessments in 2007-08. States that do not provide the outstanding evidence to verify that they have met the four criteria for the 2007-08 school year have not met the basic requirements of the statute and will be subject to consequences, such as withholding of Title I, Part A administrative funds.

In 2008-09, Alabama must provide evidence for peer review that demonstrates full compliance of its science standards and assessments. In anticipation of that required peer review, Alabama chose to participate in an optional technical assistance peer review in May 2008. I appreciate the efforts that were required to prepare for the technical assistance peer review and hope that the process provided useful feedback to support Alabama’s efforts to monitor student progress toward meeting challenging science standards.

Based on the evidence received from Alabama, which was reviewed by the peers and Department staff, we have concluded that Alabama’s science standards and assessments do not yet meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. Specifically, we have concerns with the academic achievement standards, technical quality, alignment, and reporting of the science component of the Alabama Science Assessment and the Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA), the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, as well as documentation that all students were included in those assessments. The complete list of evidence needed to address these concerns is enclosed with this letter. We have scheduled peer reviews for states’ science assessments for the weeks of October 25 through November 2, 2008, and March 23 through 27, 2009. All materials for review must be provided to the Department three weeks before the scheduled peer review.

Please keep in mind that science assessments represent a piece of a state’s complete standards and assessment system, which also includes regular and alternate assessments for reading and mathematics. As stated in my letter to you on October 25, 2007, Alabama’s standards and assessment system is currently fully approved. In order to remain fully approved, Alabama must demonstrate that all components of its standards and assessment system, including general and alternate assessments for reading, mathematics, and science, comply with all ESEA requirements for standards and assessment systems as administered in 2008-09.

We look forward to working with Alabama to support a high-quality standards and assessment system, of which science standards and assessments are an integral part. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Valeria Ford ( or Lauren Prehoda ( of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Bob Riley
Gloria Turner



  1. Evidence of approval of the academic achievement standards and cut scores for the general and alternate assessments.
  2. A narrative describing the performance level 1 for both the general and alternate science assessments, including how the non-mastery of content components is scored and included in standards setting.
  3. A list containing the names and roles of the people involved in:
    • Drafting the science performance level descriptors (PLDs) for the general assessment; and
    • Finalizing PLDs during standards setting for the general and alternate assessments.


  1. Updated “Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP)” form and training materials that includes science.
  2. Evidence of intended and unintended consequences.
  3. Final correlation analyses pertaining to the validity of the science general assessment.
  4. Final standards-setting materials, including the lists of standards-setting judges, the final standards-setting report, and the final approved cut scores.
  5. Final technical manuals, including documentation that DIF analysis is being used.
  6. Description and results of accommodation studies.
  7. The frequency of accommodated and non-accommodated tests for the general science assessments.
  8. Details of how the state ensures the consistency of the general assessment test forms over time.


  1. For the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards, a frequency distribution for each of the complexity levels being selected across the state on each of the extended content standards.
  2. Evidence that the state has taken steps to ensure alignment between challenging academic content standards and the academic achievement standards once standard setting is complete.


  1. Data on the number and percentage of students enrolled on test date and number tested by disaggregated group.


  1. Final science reports and interpretive guides that describe what the scores mean.
  2. Final science summary reports that include the number of students enrolled and percentage tested or number of students tested/not tested, and numbers for each of the required subgroups, at the school, district, and State levels.
  3. Interpretive information that accompanies the reports for parents, teachers, and principals.
  4. Evidence that districts are required to disseminate reports in a timely manner to parents, teachers, and principals.

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