December 19, 2007 – Vermont Assessment Letter

December 19, 2007

Honorable Richard H. Cate
Vermont Department of Education
120 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2501

Dear Commissioner Cate:

I am writing to follow up on our conversation on December 19, 2007, in which you requested to amend Vermont’s timeline to address the remaining concerns regarding the technical quality and alignment to grade-level content standards of the Portfolio Assessment of Alternate Grade Expectations (PAAGE), Vermont’s alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. As mentioned in my September 21 letter, Vermont set an ambitious schedule to complete the remaining work on the PAAGE in the 2007-08 school year. I understand, based on our recent conversation and correspondence with your staff that Vermont will no longer be able to adhere to this timeline. As a result, Vermont will not have in place an alternate assessment or alternate academic achievement standards that meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of Sections 1111(b)(1) and 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA and 34 C.F.R. §§ 200.1, 200.2, and 200.6 until the 2008-09 school year.

Because Vermont continues to lack an approved alternate assessment, the status of Vermont’s standards and assessment system remains Approval Pending. Under this status, the condition on Vermont’s fiscal year 2007 Title I, Part A grant award will continue. Due the time it will take Vermont to address the remaining concerns, Vermont must enter into a Compliance Agreement with the Department, as authorized by Section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act. The purpose of the agreement is to enable Vermont to remain eligible to receive funding while coming into full compliance with applicable requirements as soon as feasible but within three years. The Department and Vermont will need to agree on the components of the agreement, including a detailed plan and specific timeline for how Vermont will accomplish the steps necessary to bring its system into compliance. For example, Vermont may need to contract with outside experts or technical assistance providers knowledgeable in the areas of non-compliance. In addition, before entering into the agreement, the Department must hold a hearing to explore why full compliance with the Title I standards and assessment requirements is not feasible until a future date. The State, affected students and their parents, and other interested parties may participate in the hearing. The Department must publish findings of noncompliance and the substance of the agreement in the Federal Register.

The compliance agreement must include a budget for each year the agreement is in place that demonstrates that Vermont has committed sufficient resources to correct the areas of non-compliance. The budget must reflect that Vermont will use a reasonable portion of its Title I, Part A administrative funds, in addition to State funds and funds it receives under section 6111 of the ESEA, toward improving its assessment system. The Title I, Part A State administrative funds that are used must supplement, not supplant, the State funds dedicated for this purpose.

I appreciate the steps Vermont has taken toward meeting the requirements of the ESEA, and I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system. I have asked my staff to periodically visit with you and your staff throughout the term of the compliance agreement to discuss the progress that is being made to bring your alternate academic achievement standards and alternate assessment into compliance with the ESEA requirements, as well as any other concerns or issues that may arise. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Sharon Hall ( or Abigail Potts ( of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Jim Douglas
Gail Taylor
Michael Hock



  1. 1. Evidence of approved/adopted alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in reading/language arts and mathematics for each of grades 3 through 8 and at least one grade in the 10-12 grade span.
  2. Documentation of the development of academic achievement descriptors for the alternate assessment in the content area of science.
  3. Evidence that the alternate academic achievement standards include for each content area:
    1. a. At least three levels of achievement, including two levels of high achievement (e.g., proficient and advanced) that determine how well students are mastering a State’s academic content standards, and a third level of achievement (e.g., basic) to provide information about the progress of lower-achieving students toward mastering the proficient and advanced levels of achievement;
    2. Descriptions of the competencies associated with each achievement level; and
    3. Assessment scores (“cut scores”) that differentiate among the achievement levels.
  4. Evidence that the Board or other authority has adopted all alternate achievement standards.
  5. Documentation that the State has reported separately the number and percent of those students with disabilities assessed on the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards, those assessed on an alternate assessment based on grade-level standards, and those included in the regular assessment (including those administered that assessment with appropriate accommodations).
  6. Evidence that the State has documented the involvement of diverse stakeholders in the development of its alternate academic achievement standards.


  1. 1. Evidence that the State has documented validity (in addition to the alignment of the alternate assessment with the content standards), as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA/APA/NCME, 1999).
  2. For the alternate assessments, evidence that the State has provided documentation of the standard setting process, including a description the selection of judges, methodology employed, and final results.
  3. For the alternate assessment(s), evidence that the State has considered the issue of reliability, as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA/APA/NCME, 1999).
  4. Evidence that the State has established:
    1. Clear criteria for the administration, scoring, analysis, and reporting components of its alternate assessment; and
    2. A system for monitoring and improving the on-going quality of its alternate assessment.


  1. Evidence that the Alternate Grade-Level Expectations (AGEs) and all associated tasks across grade spans submitted for the PAAGE are aligned with State academic content standards in reading and mathematics.
  2. Evidence that the State has developed on-going procedures to maintain and improve alignment between the alternate assessment and standards over time, particularly if gaps have been noted.


  1. Evidence that the State will produce individual student alternate assessment reports in terms of the State’s revised alternate achievement standards. With respect to such individual student reports:
    1. Evidence that these individual student reports provide information for parents, teachers, and principals to help them understand and address a student’s specific academic needs. This information must be displayed in a format and language that is understandable to parents, teachers, and principals, for example, through the use of descriptors that describe what students know and can do at different performance levels. The reports must be accompanied by interpretive guidance for these audiences; and
    2. Evidence that the State ensures that these individual student reports will be delivered to parents, teachers, and principals as soon as possible after the alternate assessment is administered.

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