June 17, 2008
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 of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made certain changes to Georgia's accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that Georgia submitted to the Department on June 13, 2008. 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 that were reviewed by my office is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend the Georgia 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, assessments, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Leighann Lenti (Leighann.Lenti@ed.gov) or Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) of my staff.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Sonny Perdue
Amendments to the Georgia Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of the State's amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website (www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for the complete Georgia accountability plan.
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: Georgia will use the "proxy method" (option 1 in our guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the transition flexibility regarding calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the students with disabilities subgroup, as offered by the Department pursuant to its authority under 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g). See www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/modachieve-summary.html. Georgia 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 percentage of students with disabilities who score proficient or above. Georgia will use this adjusted percent proficient to re-examine if a school or district made AYP for the 2007-08 school year only for a school or district that did not make AYP solely due to its students with disabilities subgroup.
AYP and safe harbor determinations (Element 3.2)
Revision: For AYP determinations in 2006-07 and subsequent Quality Core Curriculum (QCC)/Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) transition years, Georgia will equate the QCC to GPS assessment results in grades and subjects where appropriate, using an equipercentile adjustment for multi-year averaging, safe harbor, and second indicator calculations. This method will be applied for two years per subject per grade.
AYP determinations (Element 3.2)
Revision: Georgia will count summer retest scores for official AYP determinations. This policy may not impinge on Georgia's ability to make timely AYP determinations.
High school graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: Georgia will use dropout rate in place of graduation rate as the second indicator for those Georgia alternative high schools that do not offer a high school diploma. Georgia has 21 alternative high schools, several of which do not offer a diploma. Georgia will continue to use graduation rate as the second indicator in alternative high schools that do offer diplomas.
AYP Determinations (Element 3.2)
Revision: Georgia will adjust its Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) trajectory beginning in the 2008-09 school year and extending to the 2013-14 school year based on new performance standards and assessments for grades 3-8 in math. Georgia is implementing new math assessments in grades 3-8 beginning with the 2007-08 school year. Georgia followed the statutory requirements to reset its AMOs.
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 (Elements 2.2 and 5.3)
For accountability purposes, Georgia requested to only include those students with disabilities (SWD) who were reported as SWD from the Fall full time equivalent (FTE) count day through the state's spring testing window; excluding from the SWD subgroup the scores of students who are identified for special education programs and services after the Fall FTE. The length of time a student receives services has no impact on whether a student meets the definition.
High school graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Georgia requested to include its "Special Education Diploma" as a regular diploma for calculating graduation rate for AYP purposes. "Graduation rate" for public secondary school students 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.
Including limited English proficient (LEP) students in AYP determinations (Element 3.2)
Georgia requested to create a "second look" indicator for LEP students who have been enrolled in U.S. schools for less than three years and are at Performance Band I and II as measured on the state's English proficiency assessment (ACCESS). Georgia proposed to count LEP students as proficient if they do not meet or exceed standards on the math or reading sections of the state content tests but do move from one performance band to another as measured annually on the ACCESS. Current regulations allow a state to exempt recently arrived LEP students from one administration of the state's reading/language arts assessment and permit a state to exclude from (AYP) determinations the scores of recently arrived LEP students on state mathematics and/or reading language arts assessments (if taken). Georgia's request is not covered by these narrow exceptions nor is it consistent with the statute and regulations requiring AYP determinations to be based on the student's performance on mathematics and reading/language arts content assessments.