Administrators LEAD & MANAGE MY SCHOOL
Decision Letter on Request to Amend Arizona Accountability Plan

June 28, 2007

The Honorable Tom Horne
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Arizona Department of Education
1535 West Jefferson Street, Bin Z
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Dear Superintendent Horne:

I am writing in response to Arizona'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, the approved changes are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Arizona submitted to the Department on May 21, 2007, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of the amendments submitted for the 2006-07 school year is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend the Arizona accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I.

Please also be aware that approval of Arizona'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 Arizona 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 you need any additional assistance in your efforts to implement the standards, assessment and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Freeman () or Grace Ross (grace.ross@ed.gov) my staff.

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
Acting Assistant Secretary

cc: Governor Janet Napolitano
Robert Franciosi


Amendments to the Arizona Accountability Plan

The following is a summary of the State's amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website (www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for the complete Arizona accountability plan.

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Implementation of new regulations regarding limited English proficient (LEP) students Element (5.5)

Revision: Arizona will count recently arrived LEP students as having participated in State assessments if they take Arizona's reading and mathematics assessments. Arizona will not include the scores of these students when determining AYP for the year in which they are classified "recently arrived" (i.e., a one-time exclusion). Arizona will include the scores of former LEP students in the LEP subgroup for 2 additional years.

Late AYP Decisions (Element 1.4)

Revision: Arizona requested to release final 2007 AYP determinations on September 5th instead of September 1st. This change was requested because September 1 is on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.

This change is only for 2006-07 and is conditioned on the fact that preliminary AYP determinations will still be made by August 1st.

Unacceptable amendments

The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and are therefore not approved.

Grounds for changing an AYP determination (Element 9.2)

Arizona requested to include, as grounds for appeal of a school's AYP determination, evidence that the school's failure to make AYP is due to the inclusion of the non-proficient scores of limited English proficient (LEP) students who are in the first three years of enrollment in a school in the United States. The Department cannot approve this request. We note that section 1116(b)(2)(B) of the ESEA provides that, "if the principal of a school proposed for identification believes, or a majority of the parents of the students enrolled in such school believe, that the proposed identification is in error for statistical or other substantive reasons, the principal may provide supporting evidence to the local educational agency, which shall consider that evidence before making a final determination." Overturning a school's AYP determination based on the scores of LEP students who have not been in U.S. schools for at least three years, however, does not constitute "statistical or other substantive reasons." To the contrary, it conflicts directly with other provisions of the ESEA. Notably, as required in section 1111(b)(2)(C)(i) of the ESEA, AYP must be defined by a State in a manner that applies the same high standards of academic achievement to all public elementary and secondary school students in the State. "All public…school students" includes LEP students who have been in U.S. schools for less than three years (with the limited exception of "recently arrived" LEP students as authorized through the Department's September 2006 Title I regulations). Moreover, under section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v)(II), a State must separately measure the achievement of specific subgroups, including LEP students. Allowing Arizona to use the appeal process to exclude many, if not all, LEP students from AYP determinations simply because they have not been in U.S. schools for at least three years would effectively override the explicit statutory requirements that LEP students be included in AYP determinations and that schools be held accountable for their academic achievement.

Accommodations that invalidate test results (Element 5.4)

The Department cannot approve, through the accountability plan amendment process, Arizona's request to develop and employ a conversion table that will convert the scores of students tested with a calculator, numbers chart, arithmetic tables, or manipulatives on the AIMS mathematics test if the State determines that these accommodations invalidate results by changing the construct of the test.

Rather, this issue is an aspect of the State's standards and assessment system because it deals specifically with the validity and reliability of assessment results. If Arizona wishes to pursue this request, it must submit evidence that the accommodations do not invalidate the assessment to the Department for peer review through the standards and assessment review process.

Including Students with Disabilities (Element 5.3)

Arizona requested permission to continue to use interim flexibility offered by the Secretary for calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup for the 2006-07 school year. The Department cannot approve this amendment because Arizona did not meet the requirement that at least 95 percent of students with disabilities participated in either the reading/language arts or mathematics assessments. As noted in the Secretary's announcement on May 10, 2005 (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/raising/disab-acctplan.html), having a participation rate over 95 percent for the students with disabilities subgroup is a requirement for eligibility for interim flexibility. As reported to the Department by the State, the participation rate for students with disabilities in mathematics was 93 percent in mathematics and 89 percent in reading/language arts for 2005-06.

Graduation Rate (Element 7.1)

Arizona proposes that students who graduate more than four years after their first enrollment in the ninth grade be counted fractionally (.70) in the graduation rate formula. The Statute clearly states that the graduation rate should be calculated as those graduates who earn a regular diploma in the "standard number of years."

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Last Modified: 07/05/2007