Texas Assessment Letter

May 7, 2008

The Honorable Robert Scott
Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress
Austin, Texas 78701

Dear Commissioner Scott:

I am writing regarding our latest review of the Texas standards and assessment system under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). As you know, in a letter to then-Commissioner Neely on October 27, 2006, the Department noted that the general assessments, including both the English and Spanish versions of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) and the Linguistically Accommodated Test (LAT), met the standards and assessment requirements under the ESEA for grades 3-8 and high school. However, the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills-Alternate (TAKS-Alt), was not included in previous peer reviews due to a separate agreement between the Texas Education Agency and the U.S. Department of Education (Department), pursuant to which Texas was granted three years to create a new TAKS-Alt and to phase in a new system of assessing its students with disabilities. The first year that this new TAKS-Alt is to be fully administered and used in determinations of adequate yearly progress (AYP) is 2007-08, the current school year.

In January, the Department reviewed evidence based on a pilot administration of the TAKS-Alt. Unfortunately, based on the evidence received, we find that the TAKS-Alt does not meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of sections 1111(b)(1) and 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA. In particular, we have concerns with its technical quality and alignment with grade-level content standards. I have enclosed the list of evidence that Texas must provide to demonstrate full compliance with the ESEA. It will be helpful for you to keep this list in mind as you revise the TAKS-Alt for 2008-09.

Because Texas was not able to demonstrate that its full standards and assessment system meets all ESEA requirements, the Texas assessment system is designated Approval Pending. Accordingly, Texas is placed on Mandatory Oversight, as authorized by 34 C.F.R. § 80.12, and a condition will be placed on the fiscal year 2008 Texas Title I, Part A grant award. Texas may request reconsideration of its Mandatory Oversight status by submitting in writing to me, within 10 days of receipt of this letter, a detailed discussion setting forth the basis for its belief that this designation is improper, including the specific facts that support its position.

In light of this Mandatory Oversight status and due to the fact the assessment system was not compliant for the 2007-08 school year, Texas must enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department demonstrating its commitment and investment of resources necessary to address all outstanding issues with the TAKS-Alt in order to administer a fully compliant standards and assessment system during the 2008-09 school year. This MOA must include a mutually acceptable timeline for how, when, and by whom the remaining work will be completed and submitted for peer review, including quarterly reports of Texas’ progress along this timeline. I am asking Grace Ross and Patrick Rooney of my staff to work closely with your staff to develop this timeline to ensure that it includes all necessary evidence. The MOA must be signed on or before July 1, 2008.

Because the Texas assessment system does not meet all the requirements of section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA, the Secretary is authorized, pursuant to section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, to withhold all or a portion of the Texas Title I, Part A administrative funds. The Secretary will refrain from exercising her authority under that provision so long as Texas complies with all material terms of the MOA, including complying with significant deadlines set forth in the timeline. If, however, Texas fails to comply with any material term of the MOA, the Secretary may initiate proceedings pursuant to her withholding authority under section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA. Both parties to the MOA will identify its material terms prior to finalizing and signing the agreement. If the Secretary should initiate withholding proceedings, in so doing and in determining the proper amount to be withheld, the Secretary will take into consideration the number of violations of the MOA by Texas as well as any other relevant circumstances.

I appreciate the steps Texas has taken toward meeting the requirements of the ESEA, and I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system. We are committed to helping you get there and remain available to provide technical assistance as you continue to complete the work on the TAKS-Alt. We will schedule an additional peer review when you have the 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 Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) or Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Rick Perry
Criss Cloudt
Gloria Zyskowski



  1. Documentation that the state has reported separately the number and percentage of those students with disabilities assessed against alternate achievement standards, those assessed on an alternate assessment against grade-level standards, and those included in the general assessment (including those administered with appropriate accommodations) for the 2007-08 administration of the TAKS-Alt in reading, mathematics, and science.
  2. Documentation that skill-level performance on the TAKS-Alt is differentiated in the scoring and achievement-level classification.


  1. Additional evidence that the state has documented validity of the TAKS-Alt (in addition to the alignment of the TAKS-Alt with Texas’ content standards) as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA/APA/NCME, 1999).
    1. A technical report for the 2008 administration of the TAKS-Alt.
    2. Evidence that the assessment activities measuring academic content on the TAKS-Alt are not driven by non-academic IEP goals.
    3. Evidence that the activities selected by teachers on the TAKS-Alt are aligned with the objectives and essence statements.
    4. Evidence that the cut scores on the TAKS-Alt have been applied to a larger sample of portfolios after the 2007-08 administration to verify that the scores result in appropriate classifications.
    5. Evidence that score classifications are valid and reliable for the students and subgroups taking the TAKS-Alt.
    6. Evidence that the activities selected by teachers are aligned with the objectives and essence statement.
  2. 2For the TAKS-Alt, evidence that the state has considered the issue of reliability, as described in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing.
    1. Evidence that Texas has instituted an annual procedure for second rater protocols (or third rater protocols to resolve conflicts) that include at least 50 percent of the scored activities submitted by teachers.
    2. Evidence that the state has revised the current procedure for second raters to ensure independence of the ratings.
  3. Evidence that the state has taken steps, such as bias review of items, to ensure fairness in the development of the TAKS-Alt. Evidence that activities selected by teachers are bias-free.
  4. Evidence that the state has established clear criteria for the administration, scoring, analysis, and reporting components of the TAKS-Alt:
    1. Evidence that the state has developed procedures to certify staff prior to their involvement in the development, administration, and/or scoring of assessment activities.
    2. Specific timelines and activities related to the state’s increased training and support.
  5. Evidence that the state conducts monitoring and auditing of assessment development, administration, and scoring of the TAKS-Alt to ensure consistency, comparability, and accuracy (i.e. alignment) of the submissions.
  6. Evidence that the state has a process to review a representative sample of individual student assessments across years to monitor that skill and activity selections associated with an essence statement show adequate progression of skill development over time.
  7. Studies that include the representativeness of the sample of students taking the TAKS-Alt assessments.


  1. Evidence that the alignment study has been replicated with an adequate sample of portfolios that is representative of the population of students taking the TAKS-Alt.
  2. A plan with activities and timelines that addresses the issues raised from the new alignment study of the TAKS-Alt.


  1. Participation data for all students with disabilities taking the TAKS (with and without accommodations), TAKS-Alt, and TAKS-M assessments in the spring 2008 administration.
  2. A final accommodations manual from 2007-08 showing the list of accommodations and training for test administrators.


  1. State and district disaggregated reports after the implementation of the 2007-08 TAKS-Alt administration.

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