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Response to Proposed ESSA Assessment Regulations

California Department of Education (CDE) Seal
California State Board of Education (SBE) Seal

State Superintendent of Public Instruction
1430 N Street Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

September 9, 2016


Ms. Jessica McKinney
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Room 3W107
Washington, DC 20202-2800

Docket ID: ED-2016-OESE-0053

Dear Ms. McKinney:

The California Department of Education (CDE) and the California State Board of Education (SBE) appreciate the hard work of the U.S. Department of Education’s staff and the participants in the negotiated rulemaking process in crafting the proposed Title I, Part B - Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged - Academic Assessments regulations. We appreciate the opportunity to provide input into these regulations, which are important to the ongoing development of our assessment system that meets California’s needs in assessing the progress of our 6.2 million public school students. 

English Language Proficiency (ELP) Assessment

California assesses the English language proficiency (ELP) of 1.4 million students annually. At present, California is transitioning from its current ELP assessment, the California English Language Development Test, to the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC), which will occur in 2018. The ELPAC will be aligned with the 2012 California English Language Development Standards. Given the critical importance of identifying and assessing the progress of English learners (ELs), California seeks further clarification on issues related to the proposed ELP assessment regulations.

Proposed Section 200.6(f)(3)(B) indicates that a state must require each local education agency (LEA) to assess annually the ELP, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, of all English learners in schools served by each LEA.

  • California recommends specifying that the requirement applies only to students in kindergarten through grade twelve. LEAs often serve students outside of these grade ranges, including children as young as three in the California State Preschool Program. LEAs are currently required to administer developmentally appropriate formative assessments for those children and we would not want to impose additional assessment requirements for such young children.

Inclusion of all Students – One Percent State Cap on Alternate Assessments:  Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities

Proposed Section 200.6 specifies that if a state needs to request a waiver for exceeding the state cap on the share of students taking an alternate assessment aligned with alternative academic achievement standards, the request needs to include specified information. Section 200.6 (c)(4)(i) in the proposed regulations would limit such a waiver request to one year and requires it to be submitted at least 90 days before the start of the state’s first testing window.

In addition, such a waiver request must also include a number of assurances regarding how the state is working with LEAs to limit the number of students taking the alternative assessment, including the plan and timeline for coming into compliance.

  • California has concerns with the prescriptive requirements for receiving a waiver despite the clear congressional intent in section 8401 of the ESSA to make the presumption in favor of granting waivers, provided that requests demonstrate the need for and putative benefit of the waiver, without any additional requirements. We recommend that these additional requirements for plans and assurances be eliminated in the final regulations.
  • Furthermore, California has concerns that requiring the waiver to be submitted 90 days before the state’s first testing window would require individualized education program (IEP) teams to make final decisions (gather data and evaluate) about students within the first two months of the academic school year; adding to the administrative burden of the LEA and the collective burden of the state educational agency. In addition, because students’ needs and skills are subject to change, an IEP team, in consultation with a student’s parents or guardians, may determine that an eligible student’s needs have changed during the year, including what the appropriate accommodation or testing mechanism should be. Should this section remain, we recommend that the 90-day timeline be removed.

California appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback, as these regulations will have a significant impact on our state’s ongoing work to support LEAs, schools, and all of California’s students in utilizing assessments to improve teaching and learning.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this letter, please contact Debra Brown, Director, Governmental Relations, California Department of Education, by phone at 916-319-0561 or by e-mail at


State Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education

California State Board of Education


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