October 1, 2004
Honorable Ruth E. Green
California State Board of Education
1430 N. Street, Suite 5111
Sacramento, California 95814
Honorable Jack O'Connell
Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education
P.O. Box 944272
Sacramento, California 94244-2720
Dear President Green and Superintendent O'Connell:
I am writing in response to California'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, those changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that California submitted to the Department on September 15, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to approve California's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, California makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, California 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 California's accountability plan is not also an approval of California's standards and assessment system. As California makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, California 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 California'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 hope that you have found the accountability plan amendment process effective for implementing a State accountability system that best serves the needs of California's students and schools and that will lead to improving the academic achievement of all students. As evidenced by the diversity among State accountability plans and State consolidated applications, States have great flexibility in the design of their systems and implementation of particular NCLB provisions. 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.
In addition to the flexibility available to States in the design and implementation of their accountability plans, I also encourage you and your districts to utilize the additional flexibility available for the administration and operation of NCLB programs. NCLB continued the flexibility available to States and districts under the 1994 reauthorization of the ESEA, including the ability to consolidate State and local administrative funds (sections 9201 and 9203), to operate schoolwide programs (section 1114), and to participate in the Education Flexibility Partnership Program ("Ed-Flex"). Additionally, NCLB created several new flexibility options for States and districts for the operation of federal programs. These new flexibility provisions include the State Flexibility Authority (sections 6141 through 6144), the Local Flexibility Demonstration program (sections 6151 through 6156), Transferability (sections 6121 through 6123), and the Rural Education Achievement program (sections 6201 through 6234). These flexibilities truly offer States and districts the ability to target federal resources to their unique and individual needs.
I am confident that California 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 I can be of any additional assistance to California in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Amendments to the California Accountability Plan
These statements are a summary of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the California Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
AYP determinations for small schools (Element 1.1)
Revision: California requests for schools with fewer than 100 students, the AYP decision will be based on data from the current year only instead of aggregating data across two or three years.
AYP determinations for schools with non-tested grades (Element 1.1)
Revision: California will calculate AYP for schools with students not enrolled in grades two through eight or ten by (1) pairing and sharing, when feasible, or, if not, (2) using test results from the California Standards Test in English Language Arts and mathematics in grades 9 and/or 11 only if all students are required to take the course that corresponds with the assessments, or (3) using district-wide results in English language arts and mathematics.
Timely reporting of AYP determinations (Element 1.4)
Revision: California will report all AYP elements simultaneously by late August 2004.
AYP determinations for Targeted Assistance School (Element 1.4)
Revision: California will allow targeted assistance schools to base AYP determinations only on those students who are eligible for or served through Title I according to the guidance offered by the Department. It will require schools using this method to state by the beginning of the school year that they will be doing so.
Distribution of scores beyond the 1% cap (Element 5.3)
Revision: California will determine which proficient scores from an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards will be adjusted for accountability purposes when the one percent cap on such scores is exceeded at the district level.
Implementing new assessment flexibility regarding English Language Learners (Element 5.4)
Revision: California will apply the flexibility extended by the Secretary’s letter of February 20, 2004, and continue to test LEP students during their first year of enrollment, but not include their test results in determining AYP.
Graduation rate targets (Element 7.1)
Revision: California will establish a definition of progress on the graduation rate indicator for situations when one or two years of data are analyzed for AYP decisions.
Graduation rate for alternative high schools (Element 7.1)
Revision: California will use the district's graduation rate in making AYP determinations only for those secondary schools that do not have a primary mission of graduating students.
Participation rate (Element 10.1)
Revision: California will implement the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate. California will also calculate graduation rates for groups of 50 or more students.