August 17, 2004
Honorable Ken James
Arkansas Department of Education
Four State Capitol Mall, Room 304 A
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201-1071
Dear Director James:
I am writing in response to Arkansas' 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 Arkansas submitted to the Department on August 10, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to approve Arkansas' amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
This letter also documents one aspect of Arkansas' amendments for which action is needed. Arkansas wishes to apply a confidence interval to safe harbor determinations. Arkansas may use this statistical test (limited to a 75% confidence interval) for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations this school year. We request, however, that Arkansas provide impact data from the 2003-2004 AYP data regarding the use of this statistical test for "safe harbor" when available. These data will provide valuable information regarding this particular aspect of the accountability system.
If, over time, Arkansas makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Arkansas 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 Arkansas' accountability plan is not also an approval of Arkansas' tandards and assessment system. As Arkansas makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Arkansas 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 Arkansas' 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 Arkansas' students and schools and that will lead to improving the academic achievement of all students. 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.
I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If I can be of any additional assistance to Arkansas in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
Deputy Assistant Secretary
cc: Governor Mike Huckabee
Amendments to the Arkansas Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Arkansas Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Determining AYP: Confidence Interval (Element 3.2b)
Revision: Arkansas indicates they will apply a 75% confidence interval to safe harbor calculations for AYP.
District accountability (Element 4.1)
Revision: Arkansas will identify districts for improvement only when they do not make AYP in the same subject and all grade spans (i.e., elementary, middle, and high schools) for two consecutive years. In implementing this provision, States should 1) monitor districts that have not made AYP in one or more grade spans 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 from a variety of providers throughout the State (including in LEAs that have not been identified for improvement but that have schools that have been in improvement for more than one year).
Use of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (Element 5.3)
Revision: Arkansas indicates it will implement the flexibility promulgated in our December 2003 regulation related to alternate assessments based on alternate achievement scores.
Assessing LEP students (Element 5.4)
Revision: Arkansas 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.
Subgroup sizes (Element 5.5)
Revision: Arkansas will change the n-size for all subgroups to 40 with a confidence interval for those schools and districts with 800 students or fewer in total enrollment. For those schools and districts with greater than 800 students (total enrollment), the n-size will be 5% with a cap at 200 students.
Graduation rate and other indicator (Element 7.1 and 7.2)
Revision: Arkansas has revised the goals for making AYP on these other indicators. To make AYP on these indicators, the subgroup, school, or district must achieve within a range of scores or make progress towards that range from the previous year.
Participation Rate (Element 10.1)
Revision: Arkansas indicates it will adopt the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate. Arkansas will also adopt the new flexibility regarding students who have medical emergencies during the testing window and its effect on a school's participation rate.
Consolidated and annexed schools and districts
Revision: Arkansas has recently consolidated and annexed numerous schools and districts in response to state legislation. They have offered a plan for how to determine the improvement status of schools and districts affected by this consolidation process.