September 14, 2004
Honorable Cecil J. Picard
Louisiana State Department of Education
626 North 4th Street, 12th Floor
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064
Dear Superintendent Picard:
I am writing in response to Louisiana'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 Louisiana submitted to the Department on September 9, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to approve Louisiana's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
Thank you for the information provided to me on June 18, 2004 regarding a condition of approval that was detailed in Eugene W. Hickok's June 27, 2003 letter to Louisiana. Once my staff has had a chance to review this information, we will update you on the status of this condition.
If, over time, Louisiana makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Louisiana 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 Louisiana's accountability plan is not also an approval of Louisiana's standards and assessment system. As Louisiana makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Louisiana 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 Louisiana'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 Louisiana'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 Louisiana 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 Louisiana in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
Amendments to the Louisiana Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Louisiana Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Amendment with respect to same subject identification (Elements 3.2 and 8.1)
Revision: Louisiana will identify schools for improvement on the basis of not making AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject.
District identification for improvement (Element 3.2 and 4.1)
Revision: Louisiana will identify districts for improvement only when they do not make AYP in the same subject and three grade spans (i.e., elementary, middle schools and high schools) for two consecutive years. In implementing this provision, States should 1) monitor districts that have not made AYP in one or two grade spans but have not been identified for improvement to ensure they are making the necessary curricular and instructional changes to improve achievement, and 2) take steps to ensure supplemental services are available to eligible students from a variety of providers throughout the State (including in districts that have not been identified for improvement but that have schools that have been in improvement for more than one year).
Assessment and Accountability for LEP students (Element 5.4)
Revision: Louisiana 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.
Alternate Assessments (Elements 5.3 and 6.1)
Revision: Louisiana has ceased using its instructional level assessment, referred to in the original plan as the LAA-B. This assessment is no longer an assessment option for students.
Participation Rate (element 10.1)
Revision: Louisiana will adopt the new flexibility regarding students who have medical emergencies during the testing window and its effect on a school's participation rate. Louisiana will adopt the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate.