June 22, 2006
The Honorable Joseph Morton
Alabama State Department of Education
Gordon Persons Building
P.O. Box 302101
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-21001
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 of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Following our discussions with your staff, the requested changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Alabama submitted to the Department on May 30, 2006; the revised and fully approved plan will be posted on the Department's website. A summary of the approved amendments is enclosed with this letter.
As you know, any further requests to amend the Alabama accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Please note that approval of Alabama's accountability plan does not constitute approval of the State's standards and assessment system. External peer reviewers and U.S. Department of Education staff are evaluating the evidence Alabama submitted to demonstrate compliance with the standards and assessment requirements under NCLB. After reviewing those materials, the Department will then determine the appropriate approval status for Alabama's standards and assessment system.
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.
NCLB has provided a vehicle for States to raise the achievement of all students and to close the achievement gap. We are seeing the results of our combined endeavor; achievement is rising throughout the nation. I appreciate Alabama's efforts to raise the achievement of all students and hold all schools accountable. I wish you continued success in your school improvement efforts. If you need any additional assistance in your efforts to implement the standards, assessments, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Bob Riley
Amendments to the Alabama Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of the State's approved amendments. Please refer to the Department's website (refer to: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for the complete Alabama Accountability Plan.
Clarifying workbook language (Elements 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, and 9.2)
Revision: Alabama clarified the language regarding several elements in its approved accountability workbook. These non-substantive changes are intended to provide additional detail regarding the Alabama assessment and accountability system.
Full academic year definition (Element 2.2)
Revision: Alabama revised the definition of full academic year from October 1 to the first day of the testing window in the spring to September 1 to the first day of the testing window in the spring.
New data management system (Element 2.3)
Revision: Alabama included information that its new data management system is operational. It will be used to determine whether a student has attended the school or local educational agency (LEA) for a full academic year.
Performance index (Element 3.1, 3.2a)
Revision: Alabama will include a performance index in the calculation of adequate yearly progress (AYP). Students who score at the Level II performance (partially meets academic content standards) will be weighted with 0.5 and students scoring at Levels III (proficient) and Level IV (advanced) are weighted with 1.0 to determine whether the school or district made AYP. The use of the performance index is acceptable for this school year. We request, however, that Alabama provide impact data from the 2005-06 assessments and AYP determinations regarding the use of this performance index and the uniform averaging procedure (described below) as soon as it is available for further review and consideration by the Department before this calculation is included in AYP determinations for 2006-07 and beyond. Specifically, we request that Alabama address the following four questions: how many schools met the AMO using the traditional 'status' determination of AYP; how many schools met the AMO using the new proficiency index for determining AYP; how many schools met the AMO because of the application of the confidence interval; and how many schools met the AMO because of the uniform averaging over 3 years?
Uniform averaging (Elements 3.2 and 10.1)
Revision: Alabama clarified the language when averaging data across years to determine the percent proficient and the participation rate. If the annual measurable objective (AMO), for proficiency, or the 95 percent participation rate is not met in the current year, Alabama will average data for three years to determine whether the AMO or participation rate has been met, respectively. For this year only, Alabama will use only the two most recent years of data for averaging.
Creation of a Katrina subgroup (Element 5.1)
Revision: As approved by the Department through a flexibility agreement, Alabama will create a separate subgroup for students displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for reporting and accountability purposes. These students will not be included in any other group and their performance will not be included in AYP determinations. For additional details, refer to: http://hurricanehelpforschools.gov/letters/5-states.html.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: Alabama will use the "proxy method" (option 1 in our guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the Secretary's flexibility regarding modified academic achievement standards (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/secletter/051214a.html). Alabama will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of students with disabilities that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. For this year only, this proxy will then be added to the percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient. For any school or district that did not make AYP solely due to its students with disabilities subgroup, Alabama will use this adjusted percentage proficient to re-examine if the school or district made AYP for the 2005-06 school year.
Graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: Alabama will begin reporting a 4-year cohort graduation rate based upon the 2005-06 school year. As this is the first year with data available, for 2005-06 only, when a school or district does not making the graduation rate goal of 90 percent the school or district will be considered to have made AYP when there is a reduction in the dropout rate from 2004-05 to 2005-06 or it has a dropout rate of 10 percent or less in 2005-06.
Participation rate (Element 10.1)
Revision: Alabama clarified that students with tests that have been invalidated will be considered as not testing for the purposes of calculating the participation rate.