New Jersey Assessment Letter

June 27, 2006

The Honorable Lucille E. Davy
Acting Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Education
100 River View Plaza
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500

Dear Commissioner Davy:

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 peer review of New Jersey’s standards and assessments, which occurred May 8-10, 2006. The results of this peer review process indicated that additional evidence was necessary for New Jersey 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 New Jersey standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that New Jersey’s standards and assessment system administered in the 2005–06 school year has one fundamental component that is missing or that does 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 evidence New Jersey provided indicates the State can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006–07 school year.

New Jersey’s system has one fundamental component that warrants the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve New Jersey’s standards and assessment system due to the lack of an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement levels for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades 5, 6, and 7. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence New Jersey must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Accordingly, New Jersey is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on New Jersey’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. New Jersey 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, New Jersey must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress in implementing the plan. If, at any time, New Jersey 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 10 percent of New Jersey’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in New Jersey.

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 request reconsideration of the conditions, please do not hesitate to contact Abigail Potts ( Sue Rigney ( my staff.


Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Jon Corzine
Diane Schonyers

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


  1. Performance level descriptors for the partially proficient level for the NJ ASK and the APA assessments in language arts literacy and mathematics, grades 3-8 and 11.
  2. Detailed description of the standard setting procedures used for the new ASK assessments at grades 5, 6, and 7, including qualifications of the panelists.


  1. Detailed plan and timeline for completion of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards in language arts literacy and mathematics for grades 5, 6, and 7.


  1. Completed technical manual for the new assessments in grades 5, 6, and 7.
  2. Data (such as inter-item correlations) that confirms that scoring and reporting structures are consistent with the subdomain structure of the content standards for grades 5, 6, 7.
  3. Plans for, or results from, analyses of consequential validity.
  4. Clarification of the impact (if any) of the 2001 grade 4 language arts literacy standard-setting activity on content validity.
  5. Description of the procedures or plans to evaluate test accommodations.
  6. Description of the procedures or plans to monitor and maintain technical quality in the assessment system.


  1. Plan for another independent study that documents alignment of the 2006 NJ ASK tests at all grades to the NJ content standards.
  2. Documentation that shows alignment of the APA to grade-level content standards for all grades 3-8 and high school.
  3. Detailed description of the annual review and test development activities implemented to ensure strong alignment between the NJ CCCS and the assessments at all grade levels.


  1. Guidelines for student participation in the Alternate Proficiency Assessment that clarify that eligibility is restricted to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
  2. Training provided in use of accommodations.


  1. Policies and procedures used to prevent unauthorized access to electronic files that contain personally identifiable student information.

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