Minnesota Assessment Letter–Letter dated December 17, 2007

December 17, 2007

The Honorable Alice Seagren
Minnesota Department of Education
1500 Highway 36 West
Roseville, Minnesota 55113

Dear Commissioner Seagren:

Thank you for your participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) most recent 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).

In a letter to you on June 27, 2007, the Department enumerated the fundamental components of Minnesota’s standards and assessment system, as well as a number of additional technical issues, that had not met the requirements of the ESEA. Specifically, the Department could not approve Minnesota’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the technical quality and alignment to grade-level content standards of the Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS), which is Minnesota’s alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and the Mathematics Test for English Language Learners (MTELL). The peer reviewers and Department staff evaluated the evidence Minnesota submitted in September 2007 and found that Minnesota’s standards and assessment system still does not 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 Specifically, we continue to have concerns regarding the technical quality and alignment to grade-level content standards of the MTAS and MTELL. A complete list of evidence that Minnesota needs to submit to receive full approval is enclosed with this letter.

Because Minnesota was not able to address the technical and alignment deficiencies of the MTAS and MTELL for the 2006-07 school year, Minnesota was not able to demonstrate that the full standards and assessment system it administered in 2006-07 meets ESEA requirements. As a result, Minnesota’s system remains Approval Pending and Minnesota remains in Mandatory Oversight, as authorized by 34 C.F.R. § 80.12. Because Minnesota’s standards and assessment system is not fully approved, the condition on Minnesota’s fiscal year 2007 Title 1, Part A grant award will continue.

Minnesota must enter into an agreement with the Department demonstrating its commitment to, and investment of resources for, administering fully approved alternate assessments in the 2007-08 school year. This agreement must include a mutually acceptable timeline for how and when the remaining work will be completed and submitted for peer review. As part of the agreement, Minnesota must also submit bi-monthly reports of its progress along the agreed-upon timeline. If, at any point, Minnesota does not submit the evidence required or does not administer an approved standards and assessment system in 2007-08 that meets all ESEA requirements, the Department may initiate proceedings, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, to withhold all or a portion of Minnesota’s Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Minnesota. Provided Minnesota takes the necessary steps to address the remaining concerns in the 2007-08 school year, Minnesota may include the results of the MTAS and the MTELL in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations for the 2007-08 school year. In so doing, Minnesota must ensure, in accordance with federal regulatory requirements, that the percentage of proficient and advanced scores on the MTAS counted in determining AYP does not exceed 1.0 percent of all students in the grades assessed at the district or State level.

Minnesota may request reconsideration of its Mandatory Oversight status by submitting in writing to me, within 10 days of receipt of this letter, a detailed discussion setting forth the basis for its belief that this designation is improper, including the specific facts that support its position.

I appreciate the steps Minnesota has taken toward meeting the requirements of the ESEA. 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 Sue Rigney (Sue.Rigney@ed.gov) or Abigail Potts (Abigail.Potts@ed.gov) of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Tim Pawlenty
Dirk Mattson
Christy Hovanetz-Lassila



  1. A report describing validation of the MTAS alternate achievement standards based on data from the 2008 administration.


  1. For the MTAS:
    1. a. Evidence of validity as stated in the Peer Review Guidance item 4.1 (b, c, d, e, f, and g); and
    2. Evidence of reliability as stated in the Peer Review Guidance item 4.2 (c).
  2. For the MTELL:
    1. Verification that a demonstration of proficiency on the MTELL is comparable to proficiency on the MCA-II Math in terms of the mathematical knowledge/skills required; and
    2. Documentation showing that eligibility for the MTELL is consistent across districts.
  3. Evidence that the use of accommodations on the MCA-II results in valid scores and that those scores can be aggregated with scores from non-accommodated assessments.


  1. Evidence of a plan and timeline that specifies when and how the State will use the information from the alignment study to strengthen the overall alignment of the MTAS and MTELL with grade-level content standards.
  2. A written protocol for administration of the MTAS with evidence that teachers’ administration and scoring of the MTAS are consistent with the test requirements.


  1. Data that show the number of students enrolled, the number of students assessed, and the number of students excluded by grade and subgroup within each content area.
  2. Documentation of training provided for IEP teams, including training materials, schedule and attendance.

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