July 15, 2008
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 of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made certain changes to Arizona's accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that Arizona submitted to the Department on July 3, 2008. I am pleased to approve Arizona's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of Arizona's requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Arizona's 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 Arizona's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendments 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 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. If you need any additional assistance to implement the standards, assessment, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Martha Snyder (Martha.Snyder@ed.gov) or Clayton Hollingshead (Clayton.Hollingshead@ed.gov) of my staff.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Janet Napolitano
Amendments to Arizona's 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 Arizona's complete accountability plan.
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Inclusion of all schools and LEAs (Element 1.1)
Revision: Arizona is changing its method for evaluating K-2 schools for purposes of AYP. Arizona currently determines adequate yearly progress (AYP) for a K-2 school based on the performance of its former students on the third grade AIMS in the following year. Arizona is changing this process so that AYP for a K-2 school will be based on the AYP determination of the third grade of a school to which a plurality of the students from the K-2 school matriculate. Arizona is making this change to remove from the evaluation students who move outside the district of the K-2 school. Additionally, linking the performance of the K-2 school to a single school within the same district makes it easier for schools to collaborate and develop plans to increase student achievement.
Science Assessments (Element 6.1)
Revision: Arizona clarifies that it is administering the AIMS Science in grades 4, 8, and high school beginning in April 2008. High school students will be tested in ninth or tenth grade (depending on when a student takes the required course). Ninth grade scores will be banked for reporting the following year. Students in grades 4 and 8 will be assessed on their grade-level content standards.
The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations.
AYP Determinations (Element 3.2)
The Department cannot approve Arizona's proposal to redefine AYP to make proficiency targets and participation requirements separate and distinct components of AYP. Subject indicators include both the level of proficiency and participation. A school is identified as in need of improvement if it misses AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject, either by missing proficiency targets or by missing the 95 percent participation requirement. Arizona requested to distinguish between a school missing the proficiency annual measurable objective (AMO) and a school missing the participation requirement, proposing to define these as two separate indicators. Under Arizona's proposal, a school would be identified for improvement only if it missed, for two consecutive years: (1) the AMO in the same subject; (2) the participation rate; or (3) the other academic indicator. This request is contrary to NCLB, which requires a school to meet both the subject AMO and percent participation in order to be considered to have met AYP for a particular subject. See section 1111(b)(I). The purpose of the 95 percent participation requirement is to ensure that schools are held accountable for the performance of all their students, not a select few. This proposal would essentially eliminate such an assurance by allowing a school to alternate between testing all of its students in a subject in an effort to meet the participation requirement and testing a limited number of students in an effort to meet the AMO the next year, thereby creating an incentive to exclude from testing those students that are most likely to have low performance.