Peer Review for State Assessment Systems

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as 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
  • 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 six critical elements: Statewide System of Standards and Assessments, Assessment System operations, Technical Quality – Validity, Technical Quality – Other, Inclusion of All Students, and Academic Achievement Standards and Reporting.

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 August 9, 2019

CSAI Resources Developed to Support States' Peer Review Submissions

These CSAI-developed reports and guidance documents 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 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

This CSAI-developed brief discusses peer review feedback to states that use the ACT for accountability purposes. At the time of writing, Wisconsin and Wyoming was proposing to use the ACT as the high school statewide assessment. To do so, states need approval from the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that peer review requirements are met. This brief presents the peer review feedback provided to Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

Peer Review of State Assessment Systems Outcomes Report

The CSAI-developed report provides a review of the decision letters sent to states regarding peer review of state assessment systems. In this report, 37 letters from the U.S. Department of Education were reviewed. These letters provide feedback on each of the critical elements, with identification of the elements that states need to submit additional evidence for. This report contains valuable information for states looking for further insight into the acceptable evidence for the peer review process.


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

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