October 24, 2006 – Iowa Assessment Letter

October 24, 2006

Honorable Judy Jeffrey
Director of Education
Iowa Department of Education
Grimes State Office Building
East 14th & Grand Streets
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0146

Dear Director Jeffrey:

Thank you for your letter dated July 31, 2006, regarding the reconsideration of Iowa’s standards and assessment system’s approval status. In my June 28, 2006 letter, based on two peer reviews, the status of the Iowa standards and assessment system was Approval Pending with one fundamental issue missing or not meeting requirements. Specifically, Department could not approve Iowa’s use of out-of-level assessments for students with disabilities in AYP determinations for the 2005-06 school year.

I appreciated your prompt request to amend Iowa’s Accountability Workbook. The Department approved the amended Iowa accountability workbook on July 21, 2006, which indicates that beginning with the 2006-07 school year all students are expected to participate in the appropriate grade-level assessment and students with significant cognitive disabilities will participate in the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. Further, any students taking an out-of-level assessment will be counted as non-participants for AYP determinations. As a result, Iowa has resolved the fundamental issue identified as not meeting NCLB requirements in my June 28, 2006 letter for the 2006-07 school year. Therefore, the current status of Iowa’s standards and assessment system is Approval Expected. This status indicates that the evidence to date suggests Iowa’s system is fully compliant with the statutory and regulatory requirements. There are certain elements, however, that are not yet complete due to the nature of assessment development, such as setting alternate achievement standards.

Iowa must provide the Department with the complete evidence needed to satisfy the remaining requirements, as indicated in the enclosure to this letter, before administering its assessments in the 2006-07 school year. Please note that, because there are elements of Iowa’s system that are not yet complete, the condition on Iowa’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award will continue until Iowa submits the required evidence and receives full approval of its standards and assessment system.

The Department remains committed to working with Iowa to meet the requirements of NCLB and to raising the performance of all children. Toward that end, let me reiterate my earlier offer of technical assistance to you. If you have any additional questions, would like to discuss this further, or want to request technical assistance, please do not hesitate to call Zollie Stevenson (zollie.stevenson@ed.gov) or Abigail Potts (abigail.potts@ed.gov) of my staff.

Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Thomas Vilsack
Pamela Pfitzenmaier
Paul Cahill
Tom Deeter



  1. Evidence demonstrating the SEA has received assurances from each LEA regarding implementation of the three achievement levels and performance level descriptors submitted by Iowa to the Department. Examples of evidence include a sample of letters from the LEA superintendent offering assurances, or a monitoring tool used with results from recent monitoring activities.
  2. Evidence showing stakeholder participation in the standard setting process for grades 3, 5, 6, and 7, including representatives of special populations and diversity in Iowa.
  3. All required evidence regarding the alternate academic achievement standards being developed during summer 2006, including information on the diverse stakeholders involved in the standards development/setting process.
  4. Evidence must be presented regarding the Iowa’s process for informing parents about their child’s inclusion in the assessment system and training conducted to support parental notification that a child’s achievement will be based on alternate achievement standards. Evidence might include the actual page from the IEP form as well as training used to assist educators in meeting the parental notification requirements for the alternate assessment.


  1. The Buros alignment study and technical documentation on the process used to conduct the alignment study, including information on participants in the study. Iowa must also provide a description and commitment of any work that must be completed as a result of any deficiencies identified in the alignment study.
  2. Updated technical documentation regarding the alternate assessment after the standard setting process taking place in June 2006.


  1. Enrollment and participation data for the most recent year available for each subject and subgroup on the ITBS/IAA for grades 3-8 and on the ITED/IAA for high school.
  2. Documentation of the process used to ensure that students with disabilities and English language learners are receiving the appropriate accommodations during testing.


  1. Evidence that student-level reports (sent to parents) provide the achievement levels along with content-based competency descriptors.
  2. Documentation regarding the information that will appear in the on-line APR. Evidence could include examples of the data, format of the data, contract to set up the reporting, or other evidence to provide assurance the APR will be available this fall, as well as evidence of the information that will be reported.
  3. Iowa policy regarding security of student level data.

Return to state-by-state listing