August 11, 2009
The Honorable Eric Smith
Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Dear Commissioner Smith:
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 from 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 Florida's request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, Florida made certain changes to its accountability plan, which are now included in the amended plan that Florida submitted to the Department on June 4, 2009. I am pleased to approve Florida’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of Florida's requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Florida'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 Florida'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 Florida 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 Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov or Sharon.Hall@ed.gov of my staff.
Joseph C. Conaty
cc: Governor Charlie Crist
Amendment to Florida's Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of Florida's amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html for Florida’s complete accountability plan.
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Including limited English proficient (LEP) students in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 5.4)
Revisions: Florida made the following changes regarding the inclusion of LEP students in its assessment and accountability systems:
- Florida will exempt recently arrived LEP students from one administration of its reading/language arts assessments and will exclude the scores of those students on its mathematics assessments from one cycle of AYP determinations during the first 12 months the student is enrolled in a school in the United States.
- Florida no longer permits districts to allow LEP students to take a locally determined alternate assessment rather than the state test.
- Florida revised its criteria for exiting LEP students from receiving LEP services. The new exit criteria require that students meet at least two of the following criteria to exit:
- A minimum composite grade level score on the Comprehensive English Language Learning Assessment (CELLA), which is the state’s English language proficiency test, as defined in state rule 6A-6.0903.
- A score at or above the proficient level on a Florida Department of Education-approved listening and speaking assessment or above the publisher’s cut score on an aural and oral assessment. For students in grades 3 through 12, the second measure must be an assessment in reading and writing.
- A score at or above the 33rd percentile on the reading comprehension and writing or language usage subtests on a nationally norm referenced test. The second measure shall be a listening and speaking or aural and oral assessment.
- A score at Level 3 or higher on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in reading (or equivalent developmental scale score). The second measure shall be an assessment in listening and speaking or aural and oral, and writing.
- An FCAT score of 3.0 or higher on the writing subtest. The second measure shall be an assessment in listening and speaking or aural and oral, and reading.
Please note that the Department is approving Florida's criteria for exiting LEP students from receiving LEP services for the 2009–10 school year only. The Department acknowledges that Florida’s approach ensures that every LEP student in grades K-12 annually takes the CELLA and that each LEP student in grades K-12 is annually assessed on all four English language proficiency domains — reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, the Department is concerned with the fact that there will necessarily be different criteria within and across districts for exiting LEP students and the Department has questions about the relationship between the CELLA and the other tests that may be used to exit LEP students. Therefore, the Department is requiring that Florida provide to the Department data on the number of students who exit LEP status by each of the approaches outlined above and information on students' scores on the CELLA cross tabulated by each of the approaches outlined above. This information will help the Department evaluate whether Florida's approach can be approved in subsequent years. In addition, these data will provide useful information to inform the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
The following amendment is not aligned with the Department's regulations and may not be included in Florida’s amended accountability plan.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)
The Department cannot approve Florida's request to use the transition flexibility authorized in 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g) for calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup in the 2008–09 school year. As provided in 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g) and the December 5, 2008, letter to Chief State School Officers (refer to: http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/stateletters/amreqfor0809ltr7.doc, only states that are moving expeditiously to adopt and administer alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards are eligible for this flexibility. Florida has not demonstrated that it has met this requirement. As a result, Florida is not eligible to use the transition flexibility.