June 7, 2004
Honorable Wanda Barrs
Georgia State Board of Education
2035 Twin Towers East
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Honorable Kathy Cox
State Superintendent of Schools
Georgia Department of Education
2062 Twin Towers East
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Dear Ms. Barrs and Ms. Cox:
I am writing in response to Georgia'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 Georgia submitted to the Department on March 29, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to fully approve Georgia's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
Additionally, based on information you have provided us, regarding the actions taken by the Georgia Department of Education to finalize certain elements in the accountability plan required under NCLB, Georgia has met the conditions of approval that were detailed in Eugene W. Hickok’s May 19, 2003 letter to Georgia.
Georgia has noted that in the 2004-05 school year the State will be reconsidering a few items in the amended and approved Georgia plan (i.e., process for monitoring and supporting students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency, and how adequate yearly progress decisions are integrated into the state accountability system). If Georgia makes changes in these or other areas to the accountability plan that has been approved, Georgia 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 Georgia's accountability plan is not also an approval of Georgia’s standards and assessment system. As Georgia makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Georgia 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 Georgia’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 Georgia’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 Georgia 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 Georgia in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
cc: Governor Sonny Perdue
Amendments to the Georgia Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Georgia Accountability plan on the Department's website: http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
All schools with an AYP decision (Element 1.1)
Revision: Georgia will utilize a process similar to a small school review (which includes the examination of student achievement information) for the four schools that do not have tested grades or a distinct and accurate feeder pattern school. Georgia agreed to this approach instead of relying solely upon attendance rate to generate an AYP decision for these four schools.
Assessment in AYP (Element 1.2)
Revision: Georgia will use the Enhanced Georgia High School Graduation Test to make AYP decisions for high schools.
Report Card (Element 1.5)
Revision: Georgia has provided new detail for including each element required for NCLB-aligned report cards.
Including all students (Element 2.1, 5.3, 5.4)
Revision: Georgia intends to develop a system for offering additional monitoring and support services for students with disabilities and limited English proficient students. When this system is designed during the 2004-05 school year, Georgia will provide this information to the Department.
Participation Rate (Element 3.2)
Revision: Georgia will adopt the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate.
Annual Measurable Objectives (Element 3.2b)
Revision: With the implementation of its new high school assessment, Georgia will use data from the 2003-04 school year to set its starting point and annual measurable objectives. Once these data are available (Summer 2004), Georgia will provide this information to the Department.
Alternate assessments (Element 5.4)
Revision: Georgia will be using the final regulation in the Federal Register issued December 9, 2003, concerning the 1.0% cap. Specifically, Georgia will ensure that the "number of proficient and advanced scores based on the alternate achievement standards" does not exceed 1.0% of all students in the grades assessed at the State and LEA levels.
Assessment and Accountability for LEP students (Elements 2.1, 5.2)
Revision: Georgia will include the flexibility that the Secretary’s letter of February 20, 2004 provides relative to limited English proficient students for assessment and accountability purposes.
Reliable AYP decisions (Element 9.1)
Revision: Georgia has provided more details about how the State will accept, process, and consider appeals to AYP decisions.