June 9, 2010
The Honorable Kathy Cox
State Superintendent of Schools
Georgia Department of Education
2062 Twin Towers East
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Dear Superintendent 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). Following discussions between the U.S. Department of Education (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 June 1, 2010. 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).
Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Ph.D.
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 all schools and districts in the state in the accountability system (Element 1.1)
Revision: Beginning with adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations based on 2009–2010 assessment results, Georgia will assign a school that houses only grades 9 and 10 the AYP determination of the grades 11 and 12 school that at least 50 percent of the students in the grades 9 and 10 school will attend.
Including all students in the accountability system (Element 2.1)
Revision: Beginning with AYP determinations based on 2009–2010 assessment results, Georgia will use for high school AYP determinations the scores that high school students earn the first time they take the high school assessment (the Georgia High School Graduation Tests or GHSGT), regardless of what grade the student is in when he or she takes the assessment.
Determining whether each subgroup, school, or local educational agency (LEA) makes adequate yearly progress (AYP) (Element 3.2)
Revision: Georgia will enter an LEA into improvement status if it does not make AYP across all grade spans 3–5, 6–8, and high school for two consecutive years in the same subject/indicator.
The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and may not be included in Georgia’s amended accountability plan.
Providing accountability and AYP decisions and information in a timely manner (Element 1.4)
The Department cannot approve Georgia’s request to establish August 1 as the final date by which it will provide AYP determinations to its LEAs. Identifying a single date on which the state will provide AYP determinations is inconsistent with the statutory and regulatory provisions that require a State to provide assessment results to its LEAs prior to the start of the school year (ESEA section 1116(a)(2)) and that require an LEA to notify parents of students in schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring of their available public school choice options at least 14 days before the beginning of the school year (ESEA section 1116(b)(1)(E)(i); 34 C.F.R. § 200.37(b)(4)(iv)).
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 proficiency results 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 (i.e., only those students reported as students with disabilities for the period defined as a full academic year in Georgia). 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, however, has no impact on whether a student meets the definition of a student with a disability.
Establishing annual measurable objectives (AMOs) for use in making AYP determinations (Element 3.2b)
The Department cannot at this time approve Georgia’s request to adjust the AMOs and intermediate goals for its high school mathematics assessment beginning with AYP determinations based on 2010–2011 assessment results. Section 1111(b)(2)(E) of the ESEA requires a state to establish starting points for measuring AYP based on the percentage of students proficient on the ESEA-required assessments. Because Georgia will not administer its new high school mathematics assessment until spring 2011, it does not yet have the data necessary to adjust its AMOs and intermediate goals in a way that complies with the statute. Georgia may request to adjust the AMOs and intermediate goals after the first administration of its new high school mathematics assessment, when it has the data necessary to do so.
Including students with disabilities the accountability system (Element 5.3)
The Department cannot approve Georgia’s request to continue use of the two percent transition flexibility for including certain students with disabilities in AYP determinations. The Secretary previously offered this flexibility pursuant to the authority in 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g), which explicitly limits this flexibility to the 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 school years. In accordance with the terms of that regulatory provision, the transition flexibility that was previously offered is no longer available.
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 is the standard high school diploma that is awarded to students in the state, and must be fully aligned with the state’s academic content standards; it specifically does not include any “alternative award.” 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.