May 20, 2004
Honorable Joseph B. Morton
Interim State Superintendent of Education
Gordon Persons Building
PO Box 302101
Montgomery, AL 36130-2101
Dear Superintendent Morton:
I am writing in response to Alabama'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). Following our discussions with your staff, those changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended state accountability plan that Alabama submitted to the Department on March 30, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I appreciate Alabama's efforts to meet the Title I requirements and am pleased to approve the amendments to Alabama's accountability plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
Alabama had a few conditions detailed by the Under Secretary on July 1, 2003 with respect to its accountability plan. First, Alabama has received State Board approval for its plan and therefore has met this condition. The two remaining issues cannot be completed until Alabama has implemented its new assessment system, and therefore at this time we cannot remove those conditions of approval. When those assessments are implemented, we will work with you to ensure that the AYP definition is integrated into the state accountability system and to evaluate the data from the use of the uniform averaging procedure.
If, over time, Alabama makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Alabama must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Approval of Alabama's accountability plan is not also an approval of Alabama's standards and assessment system. As Alabama continues developing its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Alabama must submit information about those efforts to the Department for peer review through the standards and assessment process.
Please also be aware that approval of Alabama'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 hope that you have found the accountability plan amendment process effective for implementing a state accountability system that best serves the needs of Alabama's students and schools and that will lead to improving the academic achievement of all students. As may be evidenced by the diversity among the state accountability plans and state consolidated applications, States have great flexibility in the design of their systems and implementation of particular NCLB provisions. If, as you implement your accountability plan, you find additional elements of your plan that you believe should be refined or amended for next school year to best serve the needs of your students and schools, I encourage you to explore all the areas of flexibility available to your State.
In addition to the flexibility available to States in the design and implementation of their accountability plans, I also encourage you and your districts to utilize the additional flexibility available for the administration and operation of NCLB programs. NCLB expanded the flexibility available to States and districts under the 1994 reauthorization of the ESEA, including the ability to consolidate State and local administrative funds (sections 9201 and 9203) and to operate schoolwide programs (section 1114). Additionally, NCLB created several new flexibility options for States and districts for the operation of federal programs. These new flexibility provisions include the State Flexibility Authority program (sections 6141 through 6144), the Local Flexibility Demonstration program (sections 6151 through 6156), Transferability (sections 6121 through 6123), and the Rural Education Achievement program (sections 6201 through 6234). These administrative and operational flexibilities truly offer States and districts the ability to target federal resources to their unique and individual needs.
I am confident that Alabama 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 Alabama in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
cc: Governor Bob Riley
List of Amendments to Alabama's Accountability plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Alabama Accountability plan on the Department's website: http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html
Use of a Confidence Interval (Element 3.2)
Revision: Alabama will apply a 99% confidence interval around the percent of proficient scores for determining whether each student subgroup, public school, and local education agency makes adequate yearly progress.
Alternate assessment (Element 5.3)
Revision: Alabama will be using the final regulation in the Federal Register issued December 9, 2003, concerning the 1.0% cap. Specifically, Alabama will ensure that the “number of proficient and advanced scores based on the alternate achievement standards” does not exceed 1.0% of all students in the grades assessed at the State and LEA levels.
LEP Students and Assessment/Accountability (Element 5.4)
Revision: Alabama will include the flexibility that the Secretary's letter of February 20, 2004 provides relative to limited English proficient students for assessment and accountability purposes.
Change of date for implementation of the new English Language Development Assessment (ELDA) (Element 5.4)
Revision: The new English language proficiency test developed by CCSSO will be implemented during school year 2004-05. Until then, Alabama will continue to use the Language Assessment Scales (LAS) and IDEA Proficiency Test (IPT) for 2003-04.