August 22, 2005
Commissioner of Education
Alaska Department of Education & Early Development
801 West Tenth Street, Suite 200
Juneau, AK 99801-1894
Dear Commissioner Sampson:
I am writing in response to Alaska's request to amend its State accountability plan under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The changes you requested are aligned with NCLB and are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Alaska submitted to the Department on June 15, 2005.
As you know, Alaska uses a confidence interval for 'safe harbor' considerations. In a letter dated June 4, 2004, Eugene Hickok approved Alaska's use of this statistical method with the condition that the State provide the Department information on the impact and implications of this approach in order to receive final approval of Alaska's accountability plan. This condition is also reflected on Alaska's fiscal year 2004 Title I, Part A grant award. We have now received sufficient information from States to conclude that the use of a 75% confidence interval for 'safe harbor' considerations is a viable means of determining AYP. As a result, we are now removing this condition from Alaska's 2004 grant award. I appreciate the efforts Alaska has made to remove the conditions on its accountability plan and ensure its ability to hold all schools accountable for the academic success of all students. I am pleased to fully approve Alaska's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
Approval of Alaska's accountability plan is not also an approval of Alaska's standards and assessment system. As Alaska makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Alaska must submit information about those changes to the Department for peer review through the standards and assessment process.
Please also be aware that approval of Alaska's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendments approved above, does not indicate that the plan complies with Federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
I am confident that Alaska will continue to advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If I can be of any additional assistance to Alaska in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Frank Murkowski
Amendments to the Alaska Accountability Plan
This attachment is a summary of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Alaska accountability plan on the Department's website: http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Implementation of 3-9 testing, includes methodology for setting new trajectories (applies to Elements 1.2 - 1.4, 1.6, 2.1, 3.1, 3.2a - 3.2c, 5.2, 5.4, 5.5, 6.1, 7.1 - 7.3, 9.3, 10.1 - 10.2)
Revision: Alaska implemented new standards-based assessments in the Spring of 2005 in grades 3-9 and will implement a 10th grade exam in the Spring of 2006. Alaska used a standards validation method to set proficiency levels on the new assessments; therefore, impact data based on the benchmark exams previously used for accountability provided a level of consistency as the State changed assessments. Alaska set a new baseline starting in 2005 that it calculated using the 20th percentile school method. All students with a valid test score on one or more of the tests (reading, writing or mathematics) were considered participating and included in computing the percent proficient for each school. School improvement determinations will continue to advance as is appropriate for schools that do not make AYP in 2005 using the new trajectories. Alaska's new trajectories became effective for determining school and district accountability results 2005-06.
District identification for improvement (applies to Elements 1.2, 1.6, 3.2a, 5.2)
Revision: Alaska will identify districts for improvement only when they do not make AYP in the same subject or additional indicator and in all three grade spans (i.e., K-5, 6-8, 9-12) for two consecutive years. In implementing this provision, Alaska should 1) monitor districts that have not made AYP in one grade span but have not been identified for improvement to ensure they are making the necessary curricular and instructional changes to improve achievement, and 2) take steps to ensure supplemental services are available to eligible students throughout the state (including in districts that have not been identified for improvement but that have schools that have been in improvement for more than one year).