Nevada Assessment Letter

June 20 2006

Honorable Keith W. Rheault
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Nevada Department of Education
700 East 5th Street
Carson City, Nevada 89701-5096

Dear Superintendent Rheault:

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 letter that was sent to you on March 21, 2006. In that letter we presented the results of the peer review of the Nevada standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for Nevada to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. At this time, the need for that evidence remains.

As you will recall, the Department laid out new approval categories in the 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 Nevada standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that Nevada’s standards and assessment system administered in the 2005-06 school year has at least two fundamental components that are missing or that do 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 Nevada can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.

Nevada’s system has a number of fundamental components that warrant the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve Nevada’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the alignment of the assessments with the State’s academic content and achievement standards for grades 3-8 and high school and the technical quality, including the validity of all assessments and the reliability of the new assessments added in the 2005-06 school year. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence Nevada must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Accordingly, Nevada is placed under Mandatory Oversight, as authorized under 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on Nevada’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. In addition, Nevada 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, Nevada must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan. If, at any time, Nevada 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 15 percent of Nevada’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Nevada.

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 discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call Patrick Rooney ( or Sue Rigney ( of my staff.


Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Kenny C. Guinn
Dr. Paul La Marca


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


  1. Details regarding how and when performance descriptors will be developed for the revised science content standards.
  2. Details regarding the development of achievement standards, including descriptors and cut scores, in reading and mathematics for grades 4, 6, and 7.
  3. The process and decisions made in the development of the Nevada Alternate Scales of Academic Achievement (NASAA) assessment standards for reading and mathematics, including the qualifications of participants in the standard-setting activity.
  4. A detailed plan for developing NASAA in science.
  5. The process for informing parents that their child’s achievement will be based on alternate achievement standards and the consequences of that decision.


  1. The criteria for using local tests for limited English proficient (LEP) students and evidence that this information has been shared with all local educational agencies (LEAs).


  1. Evidence of assessment validity for all assessments, including the NASAA, including match of purpose/use to decisions, consequences, and the relationship of test performance to other variables.
  2. Evidence of the writing assessment standard-setting procedure and a description of how the equivalence of writing tests over time is determined and ensured.
  3. A description of standard setting for the four achievement levels now reported on the High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE).
  4. Evidence of the reliability of new assessments at grades 4, 6, and 7.
  5. The final accommodations manual when completed and evidence that it is provided to schools with appropriate training.
  6. Data that support the current policy that accommodations yield valid scores and modifications do not.
  7. Current or planned evaluations of the use of accommodations.
  8. Information on how equivalence of assessments over time is determined and ensured after the initial assessment administration at grades 4, 6, and 7.


  1. An explanation of the relationship between State content standards, State tests, and locally assessed standards.
  2. Documentation of alignment between assessments and content and achievement standards for grades 4, 6, and 7.
  3. Evidence detailing how the HSPE is aligned with high school content standards.
  4. A plan for using alignment study results to improve the alignment of the assessments to standards.
  5. Evidence of an alignment review of the writing assessments.
  6. An explanation of the process for confirming that NASAA assessments are linked to grade-level content standards.

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