May 27, 2009
The Honorable Kathy Cox
State Superintendent of Schools
Georgia Department of Education
2062 Twin Towers East
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Dear Superintendent Cox:
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 Georgia's request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made changes to Georgia's accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that Georgia submitted to the Department on April 15, 2009. I am pleased to approve Georgia's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of Georgia's requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Georgia'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 Georgia'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 Georgia 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 (Victoria.Hammer@ed.gov) or (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) of my staff.
Joseph C. Conaty
cc: Governor Sonny Perdue
Amendments to Georgia's Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of Georgia's amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website (http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for Georgia’s complete accountability plan.
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Including in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations the best results from high school students who retest in the same school year (Element 1.2)
Revision: Beginning with the 2008-09 school year, Georgia will incorporate in annual AYP determinations the highest test results for grade 11 students who retake the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) in July between grades 11 and 12. Georgia will release final AYP determinations per its established timeline, and schools will implement any required interventions (i.e., public school choice or supplemental educational services (SES)) based on these determinations. If students retake the GHSGT in July and score better, those students' schools' accountability ratings will be recalculated and changed accordingly. For schools in improvement that make AYP and are re-classified, including those that are no longer identified as in need of improvement, the school will continue to offer public school choice and SES to its students for the remainder of the school year.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: Georgia will use the "proxy method" (option 1 in the Department's guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the transition flexibility offered by the Department pursuant to its authority under 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g) (see http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/modachieve-summary.html) for calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup for the 2008–09 school year. If a school or district misses AYP solely on the basis of the students with disabilities subgroup, a proxy of students with disabilities equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed will be added to the actual percentage of students with disabilities in the school or district that were proficient or advanced. Georgia will then use this adjusted percent proficient to re-examine whether the school or district made AYP for the 2008–09 school year. The actual percentage proficient will be reported to parents and the public.
Including former students with disabilities in AYP determinations for two years (Element 5.3)
Revision: In determining AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup, Georgia will include, for two AYP determination cycles, the scores of students who were previously identified as students with disabilities but who no longer receive special education services, as permitted by 34 C.F.R § 200.20(f)(2)(i)(B).
The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and may not be included in Georgia's amended accountability plan.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations based on full academic year status (Elements 2.2 and 5.3)
The Department cannot approve Georgia's request that, in determining AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup, it be permitted to include only those students with disabilities who were reported as such from the fall full-time-equivalent (FTE) count day through the state's spring testing window–that is, Georgia's definition of full academic year. Under Georgia's request, the state would exclude from this subgroup the scores of students who are identified for special education programs and services after the fall FTE count day. The length of time a student receives services has no impact on whether a student meets the definition of a student with a disability.
Including special education diplomas in calculating high school graduation rate for accountability purposes (Element 7.1
The Department cannot approve Georgia's request to include its "Special Education Diploma" as a regular diploma in calculating the graduation rate for AYP purposes. The graduation rate for public secondary schools is defined as the percentage of students who graduate from secondary school with a regular diploma in the standard number of years. See ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(C)(vi).
A regular diploma must be aligned to regular grade-level content standards, as defined by the state. See 34 C.F.R. § 200.19(b)(1)(iv), (2)(ii)(A). Georgia's Special Education Diploma is not aligned to grade-level content standards; rather, it measures a student's achievement of his/her Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals.