June 12, 2009
The Honorable T. Kenneth James
Commissioner of Education
Arkansas Department of Education
4 Capitol Mall
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Dear Commissioner James:
On behalf of Secretary Duncan, I want to thank you for your hard work in implementing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). As you may know, the Secretary is traveling the country and listening to representatives of states and districts, as well as other stakeholders, talk about the ways in which the ESEA can be improved. These conversations will inform the next reauthorization of the statute. In the meantime, we will push towards our reform goals under the authority of, and in accordance with, the existing statute and regulations.
I am writing in response to Arkansas' request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made a change to Arkansas' accountability plan, which is now included in the amended plan that Arkansas submitted to the Department on June 2, 2009. I am pleased to approve Arkansas' amended plan, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of Arkansas' requested amendment is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Arkansas' accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I of the ESEA.
Please also be aware that approval of Arkansas' accountability plan for Title I, including the amendment approved herein, 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 theEducation Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of theRehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
I am confident that Arkansas will continue to advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. If you need any additional assistance to implement the standards, assessment, and accountability provisions of the ESEA, please do not hesitate to contact Vicki.Robinson@ed.gov or Grace.Ross@ed.gov of my staff.
Joseph C. Conaty
cc: Governor Mike Beebe
Amendments to Arkansas' Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of Arkansas' amendment request. Please refer to the Department's website http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html for Arkansas' complete accountability plan.
The following amendment is aligned with the statute and regulations.
Including all schools in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 1.4)
Revision: Arkansas will invoke the "delay provision" in section 1116(b)(7)(D) of the ESEA for five school districts (Corning, Piggott, Rector, Marmaduke, and Mena) that closed their schools for an extended period of time during the 2008–09 school year due to severe weather conditions (a severe winter ice storm and, in the case of Mena, a tornado) and facility repairs. In accordance with section 1116(b)(7)(D), these five districts may delay, for a period not to exceed one year, implementation of the requirements to advance to the next level of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring (ESEA sections 1116(b)(5), 1116(b)(7), and 1116(b)(8)) if a school fails to make AYP due to the severe weather conditions. Note that the delay provision may only be implemented with respect to a school whose failure to make AYP was in fact caused by the natural disaster. In addition, note that, in accordance with the statute:
If a school within a district that is approved to implement the delay provision makes AYP using 2008–09 assessment data, the school is not affected by the district's implementation of the delay provision and will receive its earned AYP designation (i.e., it will either retain its current designation if this is the first year it makes AYP or it will exit improvement if this is the second year it makes AYP).
If a school within a district that is approved to implement the delay provision misses AYP for the first time based on assessments administered in 2008–09, the school is not affected by the district’s implementation of the delay provision.
If a district implements the delay provision for a school that was identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in the 2008–09 school year (i.e., based on the results of assessments administered in 2007–08), the school's existing school improvement status (i.e., as of the 2008–09 school year) will remain in effect for the 2009–10 school year. If such a school again fails to make AYP based on assessments administered in 2009–10, the school will advance on the improvement timeline in the 2010–11 school year.
If a district implements the delay provision with respect to a school that did not make AYP for the first time based on the results of assessments administered in 2007–08 and thus was not identified for improvement in the 2008–09 school year, the school will continue to have no improvement status in the 2009–10 school year. If the school again fails to make AYP based on assessments administered in 2009–10, it will then be identified for improvement in the 2010–11 school year.
If a district implements the delay provision (i.e., because a school fails to make AYP based on assessments administered in 2008–09 due to the natural disaster) with respect to a school that was previously identified for improvement but made AYP for the first time based upon assessments administered in 2007–08, and the school makes AYP based on assessments administered in 2009–10, that school will exit school improvement prior to the 2010–11 school year.