Iowa Assessment Letter

March 30, 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 submitting Iowa’s assessment materials for review under the standards and assessment requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the peer review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support Iowa’s efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.

External peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education (ED) staff evaluated Iowa’s submission and found, based on the evidence received, that it did not meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA. I know that my staff has discussed the results of this review with your staff. However, I want to take this opportunity to enumerate the evidence that Iowa must provide in order to have a fully compliant standards and assessment system under NCLB. That evidence is listed on the last pages of this letter.

I urge you to submit any available evidence demonstrating how the system meets the standards and assessment requirements as soon as possible. I also request that, as soon as possible, you provide us a plan with a detailed timeline for how Iowa will meet any remaining requirements for which evidence is not currently available. After receiving those materials, I will then determine the appropriate approval status for Iowa’s standards and assessment system.

Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated Iowa’s assessment materials. The peer reviewers, experts in the areas of standards and assessment, review and discuss a State’s submission of evidence and prepare a consensus report. I hope you will find the reviewers’ comments and suggestions helpful. Based on this first review, Iowa should anticipate the need to submit materials for a second peer review.

We look forward to working with Iowa to support a high-quality assessment system. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call Zollie Stevenson (202-260-1824) or Abigail Potts (202-260-2465) of my staff.



Henry L. Johnson


CC: Pamela Pfitzenmaier
Paul Cahill
Tom Deeter

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


  1. Iowa meets this requirement; no additional evidence is needed. Iowa’s academic content standards in reading/language arts and mathematics were approved in July 2004 and no changes have been made in the standards since that time. Iowa has met the requirement to adopt challenging academic content standards in grades K-8 and high school courses in the subject areas of reading, mathematics, and science.


  1. A summative statement or other evidence to document that each LEA has adopted the required set of academic achievement standards including the alternate achievement standards related to the core academic content standards and benchmarks.
  2. Grade-level achievement descriptors specific to content standards must be developed in reading and mathematics, and grade-span descriptors in science at all grades assessed for NCLB purposes.
  3. Evidence regarding the participants in the standard setting activity (including representatives of special populations and diversity in Iowa).
  4. The process for informing parents that their child’s achievement will be based on alternate achievement standards and the consequences of that decision.
  5. A summative statement or other evidence to document that each LEA has adopted the required set of academic achievement standards including the alternate achievement standards related to the core academic content standards and benchmarks.


  1. Evidence of comparability of the alternate assessment based on grade-level achievement standards and the regular assessment.


  1. Evidence of the reliability and validity of the alternate assessment based on grade- level achievement standards.


  1. An alignment study by impartial professionals that documents the extent to which the content competency specific achievement descriptors for student performance at the basic, proficient and advanced levels are aligned to the assessment content specific to each grade level and content area (reading, mathematics and science).
  2. An alignment study by impartial professionals that documents the extent to which the Iowa assessments at grades 3, 5 and 6, which all school districts will be required to administer for the first time during the spring of 2006, and the Iowa alternate assessments are aligned and reflect cognitive complexity.
  3. A plan for how Iowa will continue to develop its alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards to ensure stronger alignment with standards.
  4. Evidence that the alternate assessment based on grade-level achievement standards is aligned to State content standards.


  1. Enrollment data for students with disabilities, limited English proficient students (LEP) and migrant students so that the extent to which those student populations are being included in assessments used for accountability purposes can be documented.
  2. Documentation of the training that Iowa is providing to school districts and schools to ensure that LEP students are receiving appropriate accommodations during testing and outcomes of the training.
  3. Evidence regarding how Iowa ensures that migrant students are being included as participants in assessment administrations.
  4. An assurance that Iowa has discontinued the practice of administering out-of-level assessments for NCLB accountability purposes and that all students are being administered an assessment for accountability that meets NCLB requirements.


  1. Score reports that provide information regarding student achievement within content sub-domains for reading, mathematics and science and include content specific achievement descriptors for the three NCLB required levels of achievement reporting so that parents will be clear about the content at grade level that their students have mastered.
  2. Evidence that grade levels at which all districts are being required to administer assessments for the first time in 2005-06 are added to the Annual Performance Report checklist and business rules are updated.
  3. Information on the number of students taking the Iowa tests and alternate assessments by grade, subject and subgroup must be provided.
  4. Descriptions of the policies and procedures that Iowa has established to ensure that student-level data are maintained in a secure manner and that student confidentiality is maintained consistent with FERPA and Iowa legal requirements.

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