Wisconsin Assessment Letter

February 12, 2007

The Honorable Elizabeth Burmaster
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
P. O. Box 7841
125 South Webster Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53707

Dear Superintendent Burmaster:

Thank you for your participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) standards and assessment peer review process under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). I appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the peer review. As you know, with the implementation of NCLB’s accountability provisions, each school, district, and State is held accountable for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) towards having all students proficient by 2013-14. An assessment system that produces valid and reliable results is fundamental to a State’s accountability system.

I am writing to follow up on the second peer review of Wisconsin’s standards and assessments, which occurred November 15, 2006. The results of this peer review process indicate that additional evidence is still necessary for Wisconsin to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA.

As indicated in former Assistant Secretary Henry Johnson’s letter on June 29, 2006, the initial status of Wisconsin’s standards and assessment system was Approval Pending with two fundamental components missing or not meeting requirements. Specifically, the Department could not approve Wisconsin’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with the alternate assessments, including the alternate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities, or WAA-SwD) and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for English Language Learners (WAA-ELL), and the technical quality, including validity and reliability, of the regular assessment.

The evidence Wisconsin submitted for the November 15, 2006, peer review was able to resolve several of the concerns regarding the technical quality of the regular assessment and the assessment of limited English proficient (LEP) students. However, the evidence Wisconsin provided was not sufficient to address the outstanding concerns regarding the technical quality and link to grade-level content standards for the WAA-SwD. Therefore, Wisconsin’s system remains Approval Pending, but with only one fundamental component not meeting requirements. Please refer to the enclosure for a list of the evidence Wisconsin must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Because Wisconsin’s standards and assessment system is still Approval Pending, Wisconsin remains under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, specific conditions were placed on Wisconsin’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. If, at any time, Wisconsin does not meet the timelines set forth in its approved plan the Department will initiate proceedings, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA, to withhold 10 percent of Wisconsin’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in Wisconsin.

I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system and we are committed to helping you get there. Toward that end, let me reiterate my earlier offer of technical assistance. We remain available to assist you however necessary to ensure you administer a fully approved system in 2006-07. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Abigail Potts (bigail.potts@ed.gov) or Valeria Ford (valeria.ford@ed.gov) of my staff.


Raymond Simon
Deputy Secretary

cc: Governor Jim Doyle
Mike Thompson
Margaret Planner
Lynette Russell
Maxine Hough



  1. Detailed standard setting report, including what items and data were used to produce the bookmark booklets, and the relation between cut scores and the performance level descriptors (PLDs) for the WAA-SwD.
  2. Documentation on how the new grade-cluster PLDs for the WAA-SwD accurately describe the performance levels determined by the 2004 standard setting where only general PLDs were used to determine cuts scores.
  3. Clarify the standards-setting process, academic achievement levels, and PLDs used for the 2006-07 administration of the WAA-SwD.
  4. Documentation of formal approval of the decision to use the 2004 alternate achievement standards for the WAA assessments administered in 3-8 and 10 starting in 2005-06.


  1. A plan with a timeline for implementation of monitoring the availability of assessment accommodations.
  2. The policy and/or procedures for handling assessments where accommodations not on the “allowed list” are used.
  3. The completed technical manual for the WAA-SwD, specifically related to the reliability (not just inter-rater reliability) and validity of the assessment and academic achievement standards.


  1. Information from the September 2006 meeting with Dr. Norm Webb concerning alignment areas identified in the science assessments. Provide a plan, with a timeline, on how the information provided in the alignment study will be used.
  2. Design and timeline for an appropriate alignment study for the WAA-SwD for the 2006-07 school year.


  1. Additional information related to the assessment of students coded “504,” specifically the definition of code “F” for these students and how it is used when calculating participation and proficiency rates.


  1. Refined 2007 reports in accordance with the newest assessment frameworks for the WAA-SwD and academic achievement standards.

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