Maryland Assessment Letter

September 28, 2000

Dr. Nancy Grasmick
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Dear Superintendent Grasmick:

It was a pleasure speaking with you about the outcome of the review of Maryland’s final assessment system under the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support your State’s efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.

As we discussed, the evaluation conducted by external peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education staff found that, except for the features noted below, Maryland’s assessment system meets the requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) and 1116(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

  • The State’s High School Assessments should be completed as scheduled for Spring 2001.
  • The State must develop a strategy for increasing the participation rates of limited English proficient students in the State assessment by developing consistent, clear guidelines for individual student exemptions and by monitoring exemptions through the State’s audit system. Although Maryland’s stated assessment policy supports participation in the assessment by all students, a substantial proportion of the limited English proficient population in the State currently do not appear to be assessed. From our conversation, I understand that Maryland intends to remedy this situation by creating uniform criteria for LEAs to use to make case-by-case exemption decisions, and by monitoring local implementation of this practice.
  • Results for students who participate in alternate assessments must be reported and included in the State’s system for measuring school progress. While Maryland currently reports results for students who take alternate assessments, these results must also be used for accountability purposes.
  • The State must revise State, district, and school report cards to reflect the performance of limited English proficient students and migrant students, and include the required performance comparisons between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students.
  • Title I requires that States provide for individual reports on student attainment of standards. The Department recognizes that, due to the school-level focus and matrix-sampling design of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), Maryland in all likelihood cannot meet this condition without serious disruption of its current assessment system and education reform effort. Therefore the Department is willing to entertain a request to waive this requirement.

Please send your plan for making these changes to Mary Jean LeTendre, Director of Title I, within 30 days of receipt of this letter. If the plan indicates that these changes can be made for the 2000-2001 test administration, Maryland will be granted conditional approval of its final assessment system. If any of these changes cannot be met by the next administration of your State assessment, you may request a waiver of this timeline to stay in compliance with Title I. We will work with you and your staff to support and monitor the implementation of your plan. When the required changes have been completed, the assessment system will be fully approved.

If, over time, additional changes are made to Maryland’s assessment system, you must submit information about those changes to the Department as required by section 1111(e)(2) of Title I.

Please note that the approval of Maryland’s assessment system for Title I does not mean that the system complies with federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated Maryland’s assessment documents. We hope this information will be useful to the Maryland Department of Education in its efforts to implement a high quality assessment system.


Michael Cohen


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