July 26, 2007
The Honorable Kenneth Noonan
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 5111
Sacramento, California 95814
The Honorable Jack O'Connell
Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 5602
Sacramento, California 95814
Dear President Noonan 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 of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Following our discussions with your staff, the changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that California submitted to the Department on July 16, 2007. I am pleased to approve California's amended plan which will be posted 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 additional requests to amend the California 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 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 am confident that California 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 Catherine Freeman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Grace Ross (email@example.com) of my staff.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Secretary David Long
Amendments to the California 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 California accountability plan.
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Including Students with Disabilities in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: California will use the "proxy method" (option 1 in our guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the interim flexibility regarding calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/070207.html). California will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of students with disabilities that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed for mathematics only. For this year only, this proxy will then be added to the percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient in mathematics. For any school or district that did not make AYP in mathematics solely due to its students with disabilities subgroup, California will use this adjusted percentage proficient to re-examine if the school or district made AYP in mathematics for the 2006-07 school year. Due to the fact that the participation rate for students with disabilities taking the reading/language arts assessment was below 95%, the Department cannot approve the use of the 2% proxy for reading AYP determinations.
Including Students with Disabilities in AYP Determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: California will include in the students with disabilities subgroup the scores of students who were previously identified under section 602(2) of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but who are no longer receiving special education services, for up to 2 years after the student is no longer receiving services. These students will not be included in the count of students with disabilities when determining the students with disabilities group size for reporting or accountability purposes.
The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and are therefore not approved.
Inclusion of Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and Schools in AYP Determinations (Element 1.1)
The Department cannot approve California's proposal to apply the countywide average of the percentage of students at or above proficient level in English/language arts and mathematics to determine AYP for LEAs or schools when 70 percent or less of the tested students in the LEA or school have valid scores. As you know, to make AYP, each school and LEA in the State must meet the State-determined target for the percentage of students proficient or above in reading and mathematics, as well as meet the State-defined "other academic indicator" (e.g., graduation rate for high schools), and must have valid test results for 95 percent of the tested population. If an LEA has valid test results for less than 95 percent of its tested population, it would not make AYP, regardless of the percentage of students in the district who were proficient or above on the reading/language arts and mathematics assessments. Further, one cornerstone of NCLB is school and district accountability. Approving this request, which would allow an LEA or school to base accountability determinations on students that are not enrolled in the LEA or school, would diminish the very base of accountability. Regarding California's belief that this request is necessary to ensure valid and reliable AYP determinations, the Department believes that California's approved accountability workbook currently allows the State to apply a 99 percent confidence level on the percentage of students proficient or above when determining AYP. The Department believes that this, in conjunction with California's minimum group size, adequately accounts for any sampling errors that may arise.
Harmonization of State Academic Performance Index (API) with AYP Determinations (Element 3.2)
The Department cannot approve California's proposal to use a modified version of its API system as part of the State's "Status" AYP determination for schools and LEAs. California's proposed index model would be an extension of the State's API system, which is currently used as the "other academic indicator," required by NCLB, at the elementary and middle school levels. The API, a numeric index that measures the academic performance and growth of a school on a scale of 200-1000 points, requires schools and LEAs to meet the annual API status target of 800 or make a gain of at least one API point from the previous year. California's API does not conform to the principles laid out by the Secretary in her letter to the Chief State School Officers on November 21, 2005 (www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/051121.html). Specifically, the API does not calculate separate reading and mathematics results, it incorporates multiple assessments into the calculation, and it is different for each school and re-adjusts based on the prior year's performance. Most importantly, the API is not tied to the primary goal of NCLB of 100 percent proficiency by 2013-14. Finally, California has not indicated that schools will not be allowed to make AYP without increasing the number of students who are proficient from the previous year.