Texas Science Assessment Letter

July 23, 2008

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

Dear Commissioner Scott:

I am writing regarding our review of Texas’ science standards and assessments under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).

As outlined in my letter of February 28, 2008, states had to meet four basic requirements in science for the 2007-08 school year. In particular, each state was required to: (1) have approved content standards in science; (2) administer a regular and alternate science assessment in each of three grade spans; (3) include all students in those assessments; and (4) report the results of the regular and alternate science assessments. After reviewing the evidence submitted, I am pleased to inform you that it appears that Texas has met these requirements for 2007-08. However, Texas must submit two additional pieces of evidence regarding its administration of science assessments in 2007-08: (1) final participation data demonstrating that all students were included in the assessments; and (2) district-level reports (including school-level information) for the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (TAKS-Alt) for science. Please let us know within 10 days of receipt of this letter when Texas will have those data available so that we can confirm that Texas has, in fact, met the basic requirements for administering science assessments in 2007-08. States that do not provide the outstanding evidence to verify that they have met the four criteria for the 2007-08 school year have not met the basic requirements of the statute and will be subject to consequences, such as withholding of Title I, Part A administrative funds.

In 2008-09, Texas must provide evidence for peer review that demonstrates full compliance of its science standards and assessments. In anticipation of that required peer review, Texas chose to participate in an optional technical assistance peer review in May 2008. I appreciate the efforts that were required to prepare for the technical assistance peer review and hope that the process provides useful feedback that will support Texas’ efforts to monitor student progress toward meeting challenging science standards.

Based on the evidence received from Texas regarding its general science assessments, which was reviewed by the peers and Department staff, we have concluded that Texas’ general science assessments do not yet meet all the statutory and regulatory requirements of section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. Specifically, we have concerns regarding the inclusion of all students in the state’s science assessments and the alignment of the assessments to grade-level content standards. The complete list of evidence needed to address these concerns is enclosed with this letter. We have scheduled peer reviews for states’ science assessments for the weeks of October 25 through November 2, 2008 and March 23 through 27, 2009. All materials for review must be provided to the Department three weeks before the peer review is scheduled.

Please keep in mind that science assessments represent one piece of a state’s complete standards and assessment system, which also includes general and alternate assessments for reading and mathematics. As stated in my letter to you on May 7, 2008, Texas’ standards and assessment system is currently designated Approval Pending. In order to be fully approved, Texas must demonstrate that all components of its standards and assessment system, including general and alternate assessments for reading, mathematics, and science, comply with all ESEA requirements for standards and assessment systems as administered in 2008-09.

We look forward to working with Texas to support a high-quality standards and assessment system, of which science standards and assessments are an integral part. If you 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. 1. A plan and a timeline for a consequential validity analysis that would yield data indicative of the intended and unintended consequences produced by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) science assessments at grades 5, 8, and 10.
  2. Evidence on how the state monitors the availability of accommodations during test administration.
  3. Evidence of the comparability of the Spanish and English versions of the grade 5 science assessment.


  1. A description of the actions that have been taken to address any category that was rated “weak” or “no” alignment (e.g., depth of knowledge at grade 10) in the 2006 Webb alignment study for the TAKS science assessment at grades 5, 8, and 10.


  1. Data that show that all students in the grades tested are included in the science assessments, including the TAKS, TAKS-LAT, TAKS-Alt, and the TAKS-M.

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