Iowa Assessment Letter

June 28, 2006

The Honorable Judy A. Jeffrey
Director of Education
Iowa Department of Education
Grimes State Office Building
East 14th & Grand Streets
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0146

Dear Director Jeffrey:

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 second peer review of Iowa’s standards and assessments, which occurred June 8, 2006. The results of this peer review process indicated that additional evidence was still necessary for Iowa to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA.

As you may recall, the Department laid out new approval categories in a 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 Iowa system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that Iowa’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 Iowa can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006–07 school year.

Iowa’s system has one fundamental component that warrants the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, we cannot approve Iowa’s use of out-of-level assessments for students with disabilities in AYP determinations for the 2005-06 school year. Iowa must either demonstrate that the out-of-level assessments meet the requirements of an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities or cease using this assessment to determine AYP since out-of-level assessments that fail to meet these requirements produce invalid results, and students taking such tests must then be counted as “non-participants” for AYP purposes. Because Iowa included the non-approved assessments in its AYP determinations for the 2005-06 school year, Iowa did not administer an approved assessment system in 2005–06 as required under NCLB, thereby resulting in its Approval Pending status. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence Iowa must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

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

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 abigail potts ( Zollie Stevenson ( of my staff.


Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Thomas Vilsack
Pamela Pfitzenmaier
Paul Cahill
Tom Deeter

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


  1. Evidence demonstrating the SEA has received assurances from each LEA regarding implementation of the three achievement levels and performance level descriptors submitted by Iowa to the Department. Examples of evidence include a sample of letters from the LEA superintendent offering assurances, or a monitoring tool used with results from recent monitoring activities.
  2. Evidence showing stakeholder participation in the standard setting process for grades 3, 5, 6, and 7, including representatives of special populations and diversity in Iowa.
  3. All required evidence regarding the alternate academic achievement standards being developed during summer 2006, including information on the diverse stakeholders involved in the standards development/setting process.
  4. Evidence must be presented regarding the Iowa’s process for informing parents about their child’s inclusion in the assessment system and training conducted to support parental notification that a child’s achievement will be based on alternate achievement standards. Evidence might include the actual page from the IEP form as well as training used to assist educators in meeting the parental notification requirements for the alternate assessment.


  1. The Buros alignment study and technical documentation on the process used to conduct the alignment study, including information on participants in the study. Iowa must also provide a description and commitment of any work that must be completed as a result of any deficiencies identified in the alignment study.
  2. Updated technical documentation regarding the alternate assessment after the standard setting process taking place in June 2006.


  1. Enrollment and participation data for the most recent year available for each subject and subgroup on the ITBS/IAA for grades 3-8 and on the ITED/IAA for high school.
  2. Documentation that demonstrates that students taking an out-of-level assessment are counted as non-participants for purposes of calculating AYP.
  3. Documentation of the process used to ensure that students with disabilities and English language learners are receiving the appropriate accommodations during testing.


  1. 1. Evidence that student-level reports (sent to parents) provide the achievement levels along with content-based competency descriptors.
  2. 2. Documentation regarding the information that will appear in the on-line APR. Evidence could include examples of the data, format of the data, contract to set up the reporting, or other evidence to provide assurance the APR will be available this fall, as well as evidence of the information that will be reported.
  3. Iowa policy regarding security of student level data.


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