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tea letter

July 8, 2010

To the Administrator Addressed

Subject: Update on the Implementation of New Assessment and Accountability Provisions

Senate Bill 1031 (80th Texas Legislature, Regular Session) and House Bill 3 (81st Texas Legislature, Regular Session) authorized the development and implementation of a new assessment program for Texas public schools beginning with the 2011-12 school year and a new accountability system beginning with the 2012-13 school year. A transition plan to be published in December 2010 will lay out the timelines and processes for development of the new assessment program and accountability system and issues and options that will be explored as part of the accountability development process. Following is an update on the new state assessment program, the new state accountability system, and use of the Texas Projection Measure (TPM) in 2011 and beyond.

New State Assessment Program

The new assessment program, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), will assess the content standards at a greater depth and at a higher level of complexity than the current Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) program. The overall difficulty of the assessments will be increased as a result of including more rigorous items, and by setting performance expectations at a higher level. Examples of how the level of student performance required by STAAR will be elevated to achieve the goal of graduating students who are college and career ready include:

* Twelve end-of-course tests will replace the TAKS high school end-of-grade tests.

* In reading and mathematics, grades 3 through 8, the tests will be linked from grade to grade to the performance expectations for the Algebra II and English III end-of course assessments.

* In grades 5 and 8 science, there is increased focus on promoting readiness for high school science through an emphasis on content and skills in grades 3-5 and grades 6-8 that link to the high school science content standards for biology, chemistry, and physics.

* In grades 4 and 7 writing, students will be required to respond to two writing tasks (including first person essay and expository) rather than just one task.

* In most cases, the tests will contain more items to better measure student skills at all performance levels.

* Performance standards will be set using empirical data gathered from studies that link performance year-to-year from grades 3 through 8 to high school and college and career readiness.

* Empirical studies will inform standard setting through the comparison of student performance on the STAAR assessments with nationally administered assessments.

* Performance standards will be reviewed at least once every three years and, if necessary, adjusted to ensure the assessments maintain a high level of rigor.

State Accountability Ratings, 2011 and Beyond

The intent of the accountability development process is to design a new accountability system rather than modify the current system to align with the new provisions of House Bill 3. Every aspect of the accountability system will be reevaluated. The resulting accountability system will look very different from the current state accountability system.

The defining characteristic of the new accountability system will be the emphasis on college and career ready performance on the STAAR. The Recognized and Exemplary labels will emphasize higher levels of student performance rather than higher percentages of students performing at the proficient level.

The 2010-11 school year will be the last year under the current state accountability system. The rating system in 2011 will set the stage for the transition to a new accountability system for 2013 and beyond. Consistent with this new direction for state accountability, the 2011 accountability ratings will emphasize performance above the proficient level by requiring the evaluation of TAKS commended performance for the Recognized and Exemplary rating levels.

Use of TPM in 2011 and Beyond

In 2010, performance on the TAKS tests improved in every subject for every student group (taking into consideration increases in rigor due to use of new vertical scale standards) and an overwhelming majority of the class of 2011 passed the exit-level assessments for graduation. These test results demonstrate the hard work of students and educators across the state. Unfortunately, this hard work is being overshadowed by criticism of the use of TPM for state accountability purposes.

When the Texas Education Agency (TEA) releases the 2010 accountability information on July 30, 2010, there will be several enhancements to clearly show where TPM was used to elevate a district’s or a campus’s rating. The campus and district listings that show the accountability rating labels will be annotated to indicate the campuses and districts that earned ratings without the use of any additional features (Required Improvement, TPM, or the Exceptions Provision). Also, each campus and district accountability data table will continue to show measure by measure which campuses and districts earned ratings by meeting the absolute standards and specifically where additional features were used to elevate a rating.

For 2011 state accountability, I am considering several options for changes in the use of TPM to ensure that student performance is acknowledged and to ensure that the state accountability system remains transparent. Proposals under consideration include the following:

* Suspension of the use of TPM for accountability ratings.

* Continued use of TPM in state accountability, but only for districts that elect to use it.

* Modifications to the calculation of TPM and/or its use to include additional safeguards, such as:

o applying performance floors,
o counting each student who fails but is projected to pass as a fraction of a passer,
o prohibiting TPM to be used for the same measure in a subsequent year,
o limiting the number of measures for which TPM can be used in a given year, and
o limiting which rating categories can use it.

The TEA will evaluate all options available for computing growth or the degree to which a student is on track to succeed in a subsequent grade or course as part of the development of the new STAAR assessment program. Options for how the student progress measure developed for STAAR will be used in the new accountability system will be considered as part of the accountability development process.

I welcome your comments concerning the use of TPM in 2011 state accountability ratings as well as any other feedback you have regarding assessment and accountability. Please submit your feedback electronically to the following address: commissioner@tea.state.tx.us. Your input is vital as we consider these important changes.

As recent test results and accountability ratings have shown, Texas students and educators are ready for the more challenging STAAR assessment program and a new accountability system. I look forward to working with you to ensure that our students are prepared for future success.

Sincerely,


Robert Scott
Commissioner of Education