South Dakota Assessment Letter

July 13, 2007

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

Dear Secretary Melmer:

I am writing regarding our review of South Dakota’s standards and assessment system under 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 the peer review 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 Department staff evaluated South Dakota’s third peer review submission and found, based on the evidence received, that it still does not meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. I know that my staff has discussed the results of this review with your staff, most recently during a visit to Rapid City on July 9. I appreciate your taking the time to meet with my staff during their visit.

I want to take this opportunity to enumerate the evidence that South Dakota must provide in order to have a fully compliant system. Specifically, we have concerns with the technical quality and alignment of the Dakota State Test of Educational Progress (DSTAEP) to South Dakota’s grade-level academic content standards as well as technical quality and alignment of South Dakota’s alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (the Dakota State Test of Educational Progress-Alternate, or DSTAEP-A) to grade-level content standards. The complete list of evidence needed to address these concerns is enclosed with this letter.

I know that South Dakota submitted additional evidence for peer review during our visit on July 9 and will be submitting additional evidence in the coming months. Therefore, we are not assigning an approval status to South Dakota’s system at this time. Please note that all evidence regarding the DSTAEP must be submitted no later than September 1, 2007. We will review that evidence and schedule an additional peer review. Because South Dakota’s system is not fully approved, a condition was placed on your fiscal year 2007 Title I, Part A grant award.

If South Dakota is unable to resolve the remaining issues with its assessment system by the agreed upon timeline, we will take appropriate enforcement actions as outlined in the Department’s May 10, 2007, fact sheet, including the possibility of a Compliance Agreement under Section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act. For your convenience, I am enclosing a copy of that fact sheet, which is also available on the Department’s website (http://www.ed.gov

Also enclosed with this letter are detailed comments from the May peer review team that evaluated South Dakota’s assessment materials. I hope you will find the reviewers’ comments and suggestions helpful.

We look forward to working with South Dakota to support a high-quality standards and assessment system. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call Valeria Ford (202-205-2213) or Martha Snyder (202-260-0941) of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Mike Rounds
Diane Lowery
Gay Pickner



  1. The 2007 Technical Manual, including reliability scores for all required subgroups
  2. Results of the study planned for spring 2007 to determine the congruence between individual student accommodations used for instruction and the accommodations on the tests.
  3. Documentation of validity, to include:
    1. Assessments, including the alternate assessment, are measuring the knowledge and skills described in South Dakota’s academic content standards and not knowledge, skills, or other characteristics that are not specified in the academic content standards or grade level expectations.
    2. Assessment items are tapping the intended cognitive processes and that the items and tasks are at the appropriate grade level.


  1. Documentation that demonstrates the assessment has sufficient items to match the test blueprint.
  2. Documentation on how the STEP and STEP-A tests are aligned to the academic content standards and achievement standards to demonstrate the assessments:
    1. Reflect the full range of the State content standards;
    2. Measure the depth of the standards; and
    3. Reflect the degree of cognitive complexity and level of difficulty of the concepts and processes described in the State content standards.


  1. Information regarding steps taken to ensure the inclusion of LEP and migrant students in the statewide assessments.
  2. A more detailed plan for all data verification related to the final assessment system that includes timelines and locus of responsibilities.
  3. The 2007 Technical Manual that includes final accurate data for the 2006-07 test cycle.

Return to state-by-state listing