South Dakota Assessment Letter

May 23, 2006

The Honorable Rick Melmer
Secretary of Education
South Dakota Department of Education
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2291

Dear Secretary Melmer:

Thank you for submitting South Dakota’s assessment materials for review under the standards and assessment requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). We appreciate the efforts required to prepare for both peer reviews and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support South Dakota’s efforts to monitor student progress toward challenging standards.

External peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education (ED) staff evaluated South Dakota’s new submission of evidence and found that it still does not demonstrate that South Dakota’s standards and assessment system meets all the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA. I know that my staff has discussed the results of this second review with your staff. However, I want to take this opportunity to enumerate the evidence that South Dakota must provide in order to have a fully compliant standards and assessment system under NCLB. That evidence is listed on the last pages of this letter.

Because South Dakota planned to complete a number of necessary activities this spring, I invite you to submit any available evidence of those activities as soon as possible. I also request that, as soon as possible, you provide us a plan with a detailed timeline for how South Dakota will meet any remaining requirements for which evidence is not currently available. After reviewing those materials, I will determine the approval status of South Dakota’s standards and assessment system.

Enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the peer review team that evaluated South Dakota’s assessment materials. The peer reviewers, experts in the areas of standards and assessment, review and discuss a State’s submission of evidence and prepare a consensus report. I hope you will find the reviewers’ comments and suggestions helpful. I remind you of our offer to provide you further technical assistance at your request. Based on this second review, South Dakota should anticipate the need to submit materials for a third peer review.

We look forward to working with South Dakota to support a high-quality assessment system. If you would like to discuss this further or would like to request technical assistance, please do not hesitate to call Valeria Ford (202-205-2213) or Abigail Potts (202-260-2465) of my staff.


Henry L. Johnson


cc: Governor Mike Rounds

Diane Lowery

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


  1. Documentation pertaining to the process used to establish rigor for academic content standards such as the analysis and results from the external alignment study to include breadth and depth scheduled to take place in April 2006.


  1. Documentation and evidence of Board adoption of the cut scores for the alternate assessments when they are completed in spring 2006;
  2. Evidence of the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders including more teachers representing all grades;
  3. Steps taken to ensure that the same set of performance standards are used to measure the subject mastery of limited English proficient (LEP) students in reading, mathematics, and science as other students;
  4. Cut scores for the revised mathematics tests; and
  5. June 2005 Buros final report regarding setting the revised reading cut scores.


  1. Reliability studies for the scores of student subgroups;
  2. Results of studies of student accommodations that examine the degree to which the IEP and the student accommodations are congruent, or a concrete plan and timeline for examining the extent to which the IEP and other student accommodations on assessments are congruent;
  3. Plan to develop aligned, parallel forms of the South Dakota assessments; and
  4. Detailed report and documentation of the bias review committee; ethnic, racial, gender, geographic, socioeconomic, and business representation; number of participants; committee training materials; criteria for the acceptance and rejection of items; and report of committee findings.


  1. A plan with timelines to resolve all identified deficiencies related to alignment of South Dakota’s assessments with its academic content and student achievement standards; and
  2. Interpretive analyses/comments and use of results of alignment studies related to South Dakota’s new alternate assessments.


  1. Explanations for both the earlier identified participation data inconsistencies as well as the newly identified ones;
  2. Data that show the enrollment by grade of students with disabilities and LEP students and the number of these students that take the test;
  3. Policies and practices taken to ensure the participation of all students in statewide assessments; and
  4. Review of data reports and steps taken to ensure the highest level of data consistency and accuracy.

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