July 5, 2006
The Honorable David P. Driscoll
Commissioner of Education
Massachusetts Department of Education
350 Main Street
Malden, Massachusetts 02148-5023
Dear Commissioner Driscoll:
I am writing in response to Massachusetts'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 our discussions with your staff, the requested changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Massachusetts submitted to the Department on June 9, 2006; the revised and fully approved plan will be posted on the Department's website. A summary of the approved amendments is enclosed with this letter.
As you know, any further requests to amend the Massachusetts accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Please note that approval of Massachusetts's accountability plan does not constitute approval of the State's standards and assessment system.
Please also be aware that approval of Massachusetts'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.
NCLB has provided a vehicle for States to raise the achievement of all students and to close the achievement gap. We are seeing the results of our combined endeavor; achievement is rising throughout the nation. I appreciate Massachusetts's efforts to raise the achievement of all students and hold all schools accountable. If you need any additional assistance to implement the standards, assessments, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Sue Rigney (Sue.Rigney@ed.gov) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Mitt Romney
Amendments to the Massachusetts Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of the State's approved amendments. Please refer to the Department's website (refer to: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for the complete Massachusetts Accountability plan.
Identification of LEAs for improvement (Element 3.2)
Revision: Massachusetts will identify districts for improvement only when they do not make AYP in the same subject or other indicator in all grade spans (i.e., elementary, middle school and high school) for two consecutive years. In implementing this provision, Massachusetts should (1) monitor districts that have not made AYP in one grade span 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 that supplemental services are available to eligible students from a variety of providers throughout the State (including in LEAs that have not been identified for improvement but that have schools that have been in improvement for more than one year).
Timeline for incorporating new assessments into AYP determinations (Element 4.1)
Revision: Massachusetts clarified that new assessments in select grades were implemented in mathematics and reading in the 2005-06 school year to come into compliance with NCLB requirements for assessments in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and high school. Massachusetts operates on a two-year accountability cycle and averages two years of performance data when making AYP determinations. Consequently, the State will not include these new assessments in AYP determinations until the 2006-07 school year.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: Massachusetts will use option 3 in the Department guidance dated December 2005 (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/secletter/051214a.html) to take advantage of the Secretary's flexibility regarding calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup. For this year only, Massachusetts will assign 100 "performance index" points to students selected based upon set criteria equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. For any school or district that did not make AYP solely due to its students with disabilities subgroup, Massachusetts will use this adjusted index score to re-examine if the school or district made AYP for the 2005-06 school year.
Graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: Massachusetts clarified that, beginning with its 2006-07 AYP determinations, the State will include a 4-year graduation rate based on data collected on the 2005-06 graduating class as the additional academic indicator at the high school level.