January 3, 2008 – Illinois Assessment Letter

January 4, 2008

The Honorable Christopher Koch
Superintendent of Education
Illinois Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, Illinois 62777

Dear Superintendent Koch:

I am writing regarding our latest review of Illinois’ standards and assessment system under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). I appreciate your efforts to prepare for the peer review.

Based on the latest peer review in September, we have only one remaining concern with the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), Illinois’ high school assessment. I appreciate your letter of November 7 indicating your plan for improving the alignment to grade-level content of the PSAE, including the letter from Richard Ferguson, CEO of ACT, Inc., reiterating that the College Board makes the ACT available to Illinois prior to test administration so that Illinois can review and address alignment with the Illinois Learning Standards.

As you know, we also had concerns regarding the technical quality and alignment with grade-level content and academic achievement standards of the Illinois Measures of Annual Growth in English (IMAGE) reading/language arts assessment, Illinois’ alternate assessment for limited English proficient students. I appreciate our recent conversations, as well as your letter of November 14, indicating that the IMAGE would no longer be used in accountability determinations and that the students who would otherwise take the IMAGE will be administered the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) or the PSAE. As a result, we have removed all evidence related to the IMAGE from the list of remaining evidence enclosed with this letter. The complete set of peer notes will provide guidance to you and your staff as you consider ways to revise the IMAGE to meet the requirements of the statute and regulations. A separate letter is forthcoming in response to your December 10 letter.

Based on the recommendations of the peer reviewers and the evidence you have provided to date, the status of Illinois’ standards and assessment system is Approval Expected. This status indicates that, in 2007–08, Illinois will administer an assessment system in grades 3-8 and high school that, based on the evidence to date, appears to be fully compliant with the statutory and regulatory requirements. Due to the nature of assessment development, however, certain elements of the assessment system are not yet complete. Please note that full approval of Illinois’ standards and assessment system is dependent upon whether the additional evidence to be submitted for peer review meets the ESEA requirements.

Illinois must provide the Department with a timeline for providing to the Department the evidence needed to satisfy the remaining requirement, as indicated in the enclosure to this letter. Because one element of Illinois’ system is not yet complete, the condition on Illinois’ fiscal year 2007 Title I, Part A grant award will continue until Illinois submits the required evidence and receives full approval of its standards and assessment system.

I appreciate the steps Illinois 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. We are committed to helping you get there and remain available to provide technical assistance. We will schedule an additional peer review when you have the evidence available to further evaluate your system. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) or Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Rod R. Blagojevich
     Melina Wright
     Connie Wise

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


  1. Procedures for selecting PSAE items so that the resulting scores are representative of performance on the Illinois Learning Standards and that the selected set of items has adequate technical characteristics. This should include:
    1. Results of the process aligning the 2007–08 administration of the PSAE with the Illinois Learning Standards;
    2. Evidence that the scores of the PSAE are weighted to fully represent the Illinois Learning Standards, including the weights used in scoring the 2007–08 administration of the PSAE; and
    3. Plans to ensure year-to-year equating of results on the PSAE, given that the form and weighting of results will change across years.

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