New Mexico Assessment Letter

June 22, 2006

The Honorable Veronica C. Garcia
Secretary of Education
State of New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

Dear Secretary Garcia:

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 May 8, 2006. In that letter we presented the results of the peer review of the New Mexico standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for New Mexico 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 Mexico standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that New Mexico’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 New Mexico 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 Mexico’s system has a number of fundamental components that warrant the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve New Mexico’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (the New Mexico Alternate Assessment, or NMALT) and the technical quality of all assessments, in particular the decision accuracy, the consistency and the appropriateness of accommodations. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence New Mexico must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

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

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 contact Catherine Freeman ( or Grace Ross ( of my staff.


Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Bill Richardson
Don Watson

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


  • Evidence that the State’s content standards development panels for reading, mathematics, and science included special educators.


  • Evidence that the State has alternate achievement level descriptors and cut scores for at least one grade per grade span for language arts and math, and alternate achievement level descriptors for at least one grade per grade span for science.
  • Evidence of performance descriptors for high school science.
  • Evidence that the State reports separately the number and percent of those students with disabilities assessed against alternate achievement standards and those included in the regular assessment.
  • Evidence that the State’s achievement standards development panels for reading and mathematics included special educators.


  • Results of the study evaluating the comparability of the English and Spanish language versions of each of the State’s assessments: language arts, math, and science.
  • A clear description of the “transadaptation” process used for the Spanish mathematics assessment.


  • With regard to the State’s general reading and mathematics assessments in grades 3-9, evidence:
    • That the State has evaluated decision accuracy and consistency for each achievement level for its general reading and mathematics assessments in grades 3-9.
    • That the State’s test specifications/blueprints for the general reading and mathematics assessments in grades 3-9 are detailed enough to support the development of test forms that are well-aligned to the standards and are comparable over time.
    • The results of the study of the consequential aspects of validity, including specific negative unintended consequences.
  • Documentation explaining how the State evaluated and used results from the DIF analyses.
  • With regard to the State’s alternate assessments, evidence:
    • That the State’s alternate assessments and accompanying reports adequately reflect the structures defined in the State’s academic content standards in reading and math.
    • Of inter-rater agreement.
    • Of clear criteria for the administration, scoring, analysis, and reporting components.
  • An explanation of why Spanish-language versions of the State’s reading and mathematics assessments are provided in grades 3-9 but not in grade 11.
  • Documentation showing that both the State’s alternate assessment advisory panel and the Secretary’s Assessment and Accountability Advisory Council for the general assessments include content and special education representation.


  • Evidence of how the State will ensure alignment between its academic content standards and the alternate academic achievement standards.
  • Results of the Spanish language arts assessment alignment study in grades 3-9.


  • An explanation of the apparent discrepancies in enrollment and test participation data for the subgroups and a description of the procedures the State is using to improve the quality of its data management and reporting systems.


  • Clarification of how the State calculates participation rates. The State must calculate participation rates separately for each grade and content area and must use the number enrolled at the time of testing as the denominator.
  • Evidence that the State reports assessment results for migrant students.

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