Nevada Assessment Letter

September 21, 2007

The 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). We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the latest peer review that occurred in July 2007.

In a letter to you on July 13, 2007, the Department enumerated several fundamental components of the Nevada standards and assessment system that had not met ESEA requirements. Specifically, the Department could not approve Nevada’s system due to outstanding concerns regarding the alignment of the High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE) to grade-level content standards as well as concerns with the academic achievement standards and alignment of the Nevada Alternate Scales of Academic Achievement (NASAA).

External peer reviewers and Department staff evaluated Nevada’s most recent submission in response to the Department’s July 13 letter and concluded, based on the evidence received, that there remain concerns with the alignment of the HSPE to grade-level content standards. Based on conversations with you and your staff, we understand that Nevada has begun taking steps to address the issues that remain with the high school assessment, including the development of new content standards and assessments aligned with the new standards. However, based on your current plans, these assessments will not be administered until the 2009-2010 school year in mathematics and science and the 2010-2011 school year in English language arts. In addition, because this review looked only at the issues related to the alignment of the HSPE, the Department’s concerns regarding the academic achievement standards and alignment of NASAA remain. The enclosure provides a detailed list of the evidence Nevada must still submit to meet the requirements for a fully approved standards and assessment system.

Because the latest peer review did not resolve all outstanding issues, the status of Nevada’s standards and assessment system remains Approval Pending. Under this status, the condition on Nevada’s fiscal year 2007 Title I, Part A grant award will continue.

Due to the scope and significance of the areas in which Nevada’s system does not meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of the ESEA, and the time it will take Nevada to address the remaining concerns, Nevada must enter into a Compliance Agreement with the Department, as authorized by Section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act. The purpose of the agreement is to enable a grantee to remain eligible to receive funding while coming into full compliance with applicable requirements as soon as feasible but within three years. The Department and Nevada will need to agree on the components of the agreement, including a detailed plan and specific timeline for how Nevada will accomplish the steps necessary to bring its system into compliance. For example, Nevada may need to contract with outside experts or technical assistance providers knowledgeable in the areas of non-compliance. In addition, before entering into the agreement, the Department must hold a hearing to explore why full compliance with the Title I standards and assessment requirements is not feasible until a future date. The State, affected students and their parents, and other interested parties may participate. The Department must publish findings of noncompliance and the substance of the agreement in the Federal Register.

The compliance agreement must include a budget for each year the agreement is in place that demonstrates that Nevada has committed sufficient resources to correct the areas of non-compliance. The budget must reflect that Nevada will use a reasonable portion of its Title I, Part A administrative funds, in addition to State funds and funds it receives under section 6111 of the ESEA, toward improving its assessment system. The Title I, Part A State administrative funds that are used must supplement, not supplant, the State funds dedicated for this purpose.

Finally, as announced in my September 15, 2007 letter to all Chief State School Officers, the Department has developed a Web-based tracking tool which will allow States to track their progress toward having a fully approved assessment system. The Department is piloting this project with any State entering into a Compliance Agreement with the Department in order to track the steps necessary for the completion of the signed agreement. Because the tool is password protected to ensure privacy, my staff will follow up with you regarding the details of Nevada’s involvement in this pilot project.

I appreciate the steps Nevada 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. I have asked my staff to periodically visit with you and your staff throughout the term of the compliance agreement to discuss the progress that is being made to bring your standards and assessment system into compliance with the ESEA requirements and any other concerns or issues that may arise. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Sharon Hall ( or Martha Snyder ( of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Jim Gibbons
Paula LaMarca
Carol Crothers



  1. A clear and complete description of the process and decisions made in the development of the Nevada Alternate Scales of Academic Achievement (NASAA) standards for reading and mathematics, including the qualifications of participants in the standards-setting activity.
  2. Documentation confirming Board approval of the revised cut scores that were applied to the 2007 results of the NASAA.


  1. Data that supports the current policy that accommodations yield valid scores and modifications do not.


  1. A detailed explanation of the actions that will be taken to ensure improved alignment between assessments and revised content standards as the basis for test validity.
  2. Evidence of alignment of the High School Proficiency Examination (HSPE) with Nevada’s academic content standards.
  3. A plan for using alignment study results to guide future development activities to improve alignment of the tests to standards.
  4. Documentation of alignment between the NASAA tasks administered by teachers and grade-level content standards.

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