Superintendent's Memo #030-10

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education

February 5, 2010

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: Participation in Field Testing of Grade 8 Reading and Grade 8 Mathematics Assessment Items for the Virginia Modified Achievement Standards Test (VMAST)

As part of a grant awarded to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) by the United States Department of Education (USED) in September 2007, VDOE has been investigating a process for developing an alternate assessment for students with disabilities who are pursuing Modified Achievement Standards. As defined by USED, such students are instructed in grade level content but are not likely to achieve proficiency in the same time frame as their non-disabled peers. According to USED’s guidance, tests designed to measure modified achievement standards must address grade level content but may be easier than the tests administered to regular education students.

Over the past several years Virginia Department of Education staff in assessment and in special education have worked with local division personnel to identify the characteristics of students who are likely to be eligible for Virginia’s proposed test of modified achievement standards, the Virginia Modified Achievement Test (VMAST). In the VMAST reading and mathematics assessments, research-based supports and simplifications identified by Virginia educators have been applied to existing online grade 8 reading and grade 8 mathematics items to make them more accessible. VDOE will conduct field tests of grade 8 reading and grade 8 mathematics items for the Virginia Modified Achievement Standards Test (VMAST) from May 3 through June 25, 2010.

Grade 8 students with disabilities identified by their school divisions as likely to meet the participation criteria are invited to participate in the VMAST field test. All field test participants must be students identified as disabled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA). Students identified as disabled under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are not allowed to participate. A sample of approximately 500 field test participants who are representative of the state in terms of demographic factors such as geography, race/ethnicity, and school and division size is needed. More detailed information regarding the VMAST participation criteria will be provided to special education directors and division directors of testing in a subsequent memorandum.

Field test participants may take the VMAST reading assessment and/or the VMAST mathematics assessment. Both the reading and mathematics assessments include 40 items each and are untimed. Since student scores and school reports will not be produced for performance on the VMAST field test, all field test participants must also participate in the state assessment identified in the students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

School divisions interested in participating in the VMAST field test must complete an online survey by February 26, 2010. More information about the survey will be provided to your Division Director of Testing (DDOT) who should complete the survey in collaboration with the Director of Special Education.

School divisions selected for participation in VMAST field test will be notified by March 19, 2010. An orientation for school divisions selected to participate will be provided by VDOE student assessment staff.

Grant funds for VMAST will expire following the field test. While it is hoped that the process used for the development of the VMAST grade 8 reading and mathematics tests might eventually be expanded to grades 3-7 and to high school, a schedule for implementing this new testing program has not yet been developed. If you have questions about the field test, please contact the student assessment staff at Student_Assessment@doe.virginia.gov or by phone at (804) 225-2107.

PIW/SLR/cd