Peer Review for State Assessment Systems

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, continues the requirement for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to conduct peer reviews of states' standards and assessment systems. This peer review process is designed to ensure that a state's assessment system follows these requirements: 

  • Measures student achievement in reading/English language arts and mathematics in grades 3–8 and at least once in high school 
  • Measures student achievement in science at least once in grades 3–5, 6–9, and 10–12
  • Measures the English language proficiency of all English learners in the state
  • Includes assessments that are aligned with the full range of state academic content standards
  • Includes assessments that are valid, reliable, and consistent with relevant, nationally-recognized professional and technical standards

Each state submits evidence of how the state developed and administers statewide assessments, as well as data and evidence confirming the technical quality of the state's assessment system. Evidence is submitted to demonstrate how a state's assessment system corresponds with each of seven critical elements: Statewide System of Standards and Assessments, Assessment System operations, Technical Quality – Validity, Technical Quality – Other, Inclusion of All Students, Academic Achievement Standards and Reporting, and Locally Selected, Nationally Recognized High School Academic Assessments. The seventh critical element, Locally Selected, Nationally Recognized High School Academic Assessments, is only applicable to states who are using such an assessment as part of their statewide system.

The peer review process is conducted by external assessment experts, state and local assessment directors, and educators. During the peer review process, reviewers will examine state-submitted evidence and gauge how well each state meets each critical element. Reviewers will share these notes with ED for decision-making, and ED will provide formal feedback on its review and decision with each state.


Spotlight was last updated on September 30, 2019

CSAI Resources Developed to Support States' Peer Review Submissions

The CSAI-developed reports and guidance documents found below can support states as they think about and prepare for peer review submissions.


Assessment Peer Review: Critical Elements Analysis Chart

This CSAI-developed resource was constructed by analyzing the information contained in the decision letters issued by ED on each state’s assessment system. The Critical Elements (CE) Analysis chart, available as an Excel file download, allows users to compare feedback received in assessment peer review decision letters across states and/or CEs for which additional documentation was requested.


Peer Review and State Assessment Administration: A Resource for State Assessment Directors

State education agency staff may have questions about the peer review process and how their state's assessment practices correlate with its requirements. This resource is designed to provide insight into peer review requirements and how states might demonstrate that their assessment practices meet these requirements. Included are links to resources and state examples that may serve as references for understanding how to implement and document assessment practices that meet peer review requirements.

Guidance for Supporting Assessment Peer Review Submissions

To support technical assistance providers and state education agency staff in developing state peer review submissions, CSAI developed this document to describe and support the submission development process. This document includes suggestions for collecting, analyzing, and cataloguing documents that might address the Critical Elements states must meet. Also included is a description of the process states must follow when submitting their peer review submission.

To accompany this document, CSAI developed the Peer Review Evidence Organizer that states might use to catalogue documentation for the submission and how each addresses a Critical Element. This tool might be used to organize documents and develop text for the state peer review submission. 


Peer Review Assistance

This CSAI-developed resource contains an overview of the peer review process, including each of the critical elements included in the peer review process. For each critical element, this document contains information on how CSAI can support states in documenting how each critical element can be addressed and met, as well as listed resources that could be used to support the documentation process. 

State Use of ACT–Peer Review Results

CSAI developed briefs to provide an overview of the feedback USED provided to states that administer the ACT as part of their statewide assessment system. To administer ACT in this way, states need approval from the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that peer review requirements are met.

This April 2017 version was written to summarize the feedback given to Wisconsin and Wyoming, two states who provided early indication of ACT use.

This September 2019 version was written to summarize the feedback given to the seven states who planned to administer the ACT as part of their statewide assessment system.

Peer Review of State Assessment Systems Outcomes Report

CSAI reviewed the decision letters sent to states regarding peer review of state assessment systems. Based on this review, CSAI developed reports to summarize the kind of feedback states were given, including identification of the Critical Elements that states need to submit additional evidence for.

This July 2017 report provides a summary of the 37 state decision letters available at this time.

This September 2019 report provides a summary of the decision letters sent to all 50 states.


U.S. Department of Education Resources for Peer Review of State Assessment System

The U.S. Department of Education communications and resources found below can support understanding of peer review requirements and processes.