With an Oct. 1 deadline looming, many states have yet to submit their assessment systems for required reviews by the Department of Education and are still struggling with implementing the testing changes that a 1994 law mandates.
As of last week, only Wyoming had actually won formal approval from the federal agency. Six other states—Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Washington—had been granted approval that hinges on their meeting other conditions spelled out by the department, according to Mitzi Beach, a department official who is working on the assessment reviews. Many other states have submitted plans and are in an early stage of the review process.
The department created a set of rolling deadlines for states to submit their plans for review this year, when the requirement took effect, and the last 27 states are expected to do so by the department’s final deadline of Oct. 1.
Under the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, all states are required to have statewide assessment systems in place this school year to determine whether schools and districts receiving federal Title I money are making adequate yearly progress toward educating all students to high standards. The systems must satisfy statutory requirements on technical quality, alignment with standards, and disaggregated reporting of results.
They also must meet a set of requirements for testing all students, including those with limited English proficiency. Observers say it will be hard for many states to pass muster on that point this school year.
“That seems to be a stumbling block,” said Wayne H. Martin, the director of the state education assessment center at the Council of Chief State School Officers. “A lot of states are struggling to figure out how they should handle this.”
In a June memo, Assistant Secretary of Education Michael Cohen told state schools chiefs that it was becoming “increasingly clear” that few state policies meet the legal demands. “I recognize the challenges these requirements may present, but firmly believe that full inclusion is not beyond the capacity of state assessment and accountability systems,” he wrote.
Sharon Lewis, the research director for the Council of the Great City Schools, said she expects that many states will not win full approval by the deadline. “I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Ms. Lewis, whose organization represents the nation’s largest urban school systems. “It’s not easy what they’ve been asked to do,” she added.
In the memo, Mr. Cohen warned that states could lose the administrative portion of their Title I aid if they fail to submit documentation of their assessment systems by Oct. 1. States can earn conditional approval if they meet nearly all of the Title I requirements and clearly demonstrate how they will meet the remaining ones by the time they administer tests this school year. Federal officials may also grant deadline waivers in certain circumstances or require a state to enter into a compliance agreement.