California Assessment Letter

June 28, 2006

The Honorable Glee Johnson
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 5111
Sacramento, California 95814

The Honorable Jack O’Connell
Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 5602
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear President Johnson and Superintendent O’Connell:

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 California’s standards and assessments, which occurred May 10-12, 2006. The results of this peer review process indicated that additional evidence was necessary for California 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 California standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that California’s standards and assessment system administered in the 2005–06 school year has at least two fundamental components that are missing or that do 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 California can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006–07 school year.

California’s system has at least two fundamental components that warrant the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve California’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the alignment of the California Standards Tests (CSTs) and the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) to grade level academic content and achievement standards and the lack of performance level descriptors that differentiate between three levels of proficiency for mathematics, English language arts and science. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence California must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Accordingly, California is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on California’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. California 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, California must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, California 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 15 percent of California’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in California.

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 call Carlos Martínez (202-260-2493) or Catherine Freeman (202-401-3058) of my staff.


Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Bill Padia

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


  1. Performance level descriptors that differentiate among three levels of proficiency for mathematics, English language arts and science.
  2. Official State Board of Education adoption of achievement standards for the CAHSEE.


  1. An external, impartial alignment study of the CST and the CAPA to academic content and achievement standards.
  2. A plan that addresses the gaps identified by the alignment study (including the External Evaluation of the CAHSEE).
  3. Procedure to review and maintain alignment of the assessment system

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