August 26, 2005
Dr. John Winn
Commissioner of Education
Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street, Suite 1514
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0100
Dear Commissioner Winn:
I am writing in response to Florida'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). The changes you requested are aligned with NCLB and are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Florida submitted to the Department on August 23, 2005. The changes are listed in an attachment to this letter. I am pleased to fully approve Florida's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
Florida had requested to adjust the offering of choice and supplemental educational services (SES) in schools that are in need of improvement, but that received an "A" or a "B" in the Florida A+ Accountability system. In that subset of schools in need of improvement (i.e., Provisional AYP schools), only students who were not proficient on either the Florida reading or mathematics tests would be offered public school choice or SES. While the Secretary is not prepared to grant a statewide agreement of this type to all the affected districts in Florida, she did offer to enter into an agreement with Florida that would implement this arrangement in a limited number of districts to test the effectiveness of this change. It is our understanding that you have declined this offer. Therefore, "Provisional AYP schools" that receive Title I funds and that are identified for school improvement must comply with the requirements in section 1116(b), including implementing school improvement plans, providing professional development, notifying parents, and offering school choice and SES, until their AYP achievement relieves them from improvement status.
If, over time, Florida makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Florida 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 Florida's accountability plan is not also an approval of Florida's standards and assessment system. As Florida makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Florida 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 Florida'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 Florida 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 Florida in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Jeb Bush
Amendments to the Florida Accountability Plan
This attachment is a summary of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Florida accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Adequate Yearly Progress and annual measurable objectives (Element 3.1 and 3.2c)
Revision: Florida will have ten intermediate goals that increase in equal increments for determining adequate yearly progress.
Making annual AYP decisions (Element 4.1)
Revision: Florida will add the new designation "Provisional AYP" for schools that received an A or B school letter grade under the A+ Plan, but did not meet AYP.
Including students with disabilities in adequate yearly progress (Element 5.3)
Revision: Florida will use the "proxy method" (Option 1 in ED's guidance dated May 7, 2005) to take advantage of the Secretary's flexibility related to calculating AYP for students with disabilities. Florida will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of students with disabilities that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. For this year only, this proxy will then be added to the percent of students with disabilities who are proficient. For any school or district that did not make AYP solely due to its students with disabilities subgroup, Florida will use this adjusted percent proficient to reexamine if the school or district made AYP for the 2004-05 school year.
Minimum group size (Element 5.5)
Revision: The minimum group size for purposes of determining adequate yearly progress will be: 1) 30 students or more as long as that group of students represents 15% of the school's total enrollment, or 2) 100 students, irrespective of what percent of the school's total enrollment that represents. As stated by Florida, the AYP definition does not include a confidence interval in its calculations.