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

June 24, 2009

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

Dear Superintendent Horne:

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 school 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 Arizona's request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made changes to Arizona's accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that Arizona submitted to the Department on May 11, 2009. 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 the ESEA, please do not hesitate to contact Victoria.Hammer@ed.gov or Clayton.hollingshead@ed.gov".

Sincerely,

Joseph C. Conaty

Enclosure
cc: Governor Jan Brewer
Robert Franciosi


Amendments to Arizona's Accountability Plan

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

Acceptable amendments
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Holding all public schools to the same criteria when making an adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 1.2)

Revision: Arizona removed the AYP component from its state accountability system.

Providing accountability and AYP decisions and information in a timely manner (Element 1.4)

Revision: For 2008-09, Arizona will provide its local educational agencies (LEAs) with preliminary and final AYP determinations in mid-June and on July 29, respectively. Accordingly, to comply with the statute and regulations requiring LEAs to notify parents of students in schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring of their available public school choice options at least 14 days before the beginning of the school year (34 C.F.R. § 200.37(b)(4)(iv)), Arizona must do one of the following: (a) request a waiver on behalf of its LEAs of the 14-day requirement for 2008-09 see http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/090401.html and prioritize school appeals as necessary so that all LEAs, particularly those with schools that begin in July or early August, are able to notify parents of their available public school choice options prior to the start of the school year; (b) prioritize school appeals based on start dates so that all LEAs have AYP determinations in time to notify parents of their available public school choice options at least 14 days before the start of the school year; and/or (c) require schools to act on preliminary determinations.

In 2009-10 and beyond, in order to be in compliance with the statute and regulations, Arizona must develop and implement a timeline for release of AYP determinations whereby all LEAs can notify parents of students in schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring of their available public school choice options at least 14 days before the beginning of the school year.

Making an annual determination of whether each public school and LEA in the state made AYP (Element 4.1)

Revision: Arizona changed its criteria for exiting an LEA from improvement status so that, if an LEA makes AYP for two consecutive years in the subject/indicator for which it entered improvement, the LEA exits improvement status. If, in the second year, the LEA misses AYP in another subject/indicator, the LEA is put on the "watch list" for that subject/indicator.

Unacceptable amendment

The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations.

Providing accountability and AYP decisions and information in a timely manner (Element 4.1)

The Department cannot approve Arizona's request to identify, for federal accountability purposes only, an official start date of the second Monday in August for all schools in the state. Actual start dates differ for schools across the state. For example, in 2009-10, start dates for the 15 largest schools districts are as follows: one district-July 28, 2009; three districts-August 4, 2009; one district-August 6, 2009; nine districts-August 11, 2009; and one district-August 18, 2009. The "official" start date Arizona proposed does not correspond with the start dates for any of these 15 districts for the 2009-10 school year and has no legal significance. Further, start dates for schools change yearly, with the trend toward schools beginning earlier in the year.

In light of the inconsistent and dynamic nature of start dates in Arizona and the fact that the state's official start date does not govern when schools actually begin, identifying a single start date is contrary to the letter and spirit of the statute and regulations with respect to states providing assessment results to LEAs prior to the start of the school year (ESEA section 1116(a)(2)) and LEAs notifying parents of students in schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring of their available public school choice options at least 14 days before the beginning of the school year (34 C.F.R. § 200.37(b)(4)(iv)). Arizona should thus remove the September 1 official start date from its workbook.

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans


 
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Last Modified: 07/06/2009