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Decision Letter on Request to Amend Massachusetts Accountability Plan

July 11, 2007

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' 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 approved changes are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Massachusetts submitted to the Department on July 11, 2007, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of the amendments submitted for the 2006-07 school year 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 also be aware that approval of Massachusetts' 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 am confident that Massachusetts 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 NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Sue Rigney (Sue.Rigney@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.

Enclosure

cc: Governor Deval Patrick
Juliane Dow
Matthew Pakos


Amendments to the Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts accountability plan.

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Definition of a new school (Element 1.2)

Revision: Massachusetts clarifies that when schools split, merge, or otherwise undergo changes to student enrollment or grade configuration, the Massachusetts Department of Education will assign the adequate yearly progress (AYP) history and current accountability status of the pre-existing school(s) to the reconfigured school(s). Exceptions to this rule only occur when, as a result of major reconfiguration to the school's student enrollment, grades served, faculty, and, in certain cases, programs offered, the State can establish no meaningful way to attribute prior year accountability determinations to the new school. When schools undergo grade reconfiguration or are newly established, as in the case of a new charter school, to the extent feasible the Department will use existing data to establish baseline performance against which improvement/safe harbor can be measured. If a percentage of the students in the new school were eligible for public school choice or SES, it will continue to be offered to those students until the school has made AYP for two consecutive years. Massachusetts will require that, if schools combine, the new school will have the lower designation of the schools that are combined.

Averaging assessment results to determine AYP (Element 3.2)

Revision: Massachusetts will discontinue the use of two-year averaging for AYP performance and improvement/safe harbor calculations. Beginning with 2006-07 AYP determinations, the State will base annual school and district performance calculations on a single year of assessment data and safe harbor calculations on the current year data compared with the previous 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 calculate 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 2006-07 school year.

Graduation rate (Element 7.1)

Revision: Beginning with 2006-07 AYP determinations, Massachusetts will apply a four-year graduation rate standard for the other academic indicator for high schools. This will apply to the overall school population and all reportable student groups when determining Safe Harbor. The AYP graduation rate standard will replace the Competency Determination (CD) rate standard that Massachusetts has used since 2003 in high school AYP determinations. The graduation rate will be lagged one year due to the timeliness of collecting this information, so the 2006-07 AYP determinations will be based upon the graduation rate for summer 2006. As this is the first year of implementation, and improvement from the previous year is not available, the minimum graduation rate target will be 55 percent, which is comparable to the previous target using the CD rate.

Please note that the Department is approving this graduation rate target for calculating AYP for the 2006-07 school year only. To obtain approval for subsequent years, the Department expects that Massachusetts provide a more challenging graduation rate target in future years.

Unacceptable amendment

The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations and is therefore not approved.

Inclusion of limited-English-proficient (LEP) students in AYP determinations (Element 5.4)

The Department cannot approve Massachusetts' proposal to change the method for assigning reading/language arts index points to certain LEP students who are in their second year of schooling in the United States. The State proposed to assign reading/language arts index points according to the students' progress toward achieving English language proficiency as measured by the Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment (MEPA). These index points would be incorporated into the Composite Performance Index (CPI), which is the basis for school and district AYP performance and safe harbor calculations. Neither the ESEA nor the Department's September 2006 regulations regarding the inclusion of LEP students in State assessment and accountability systems provides the flexibility to permit Massachusetts to use an English language proficiency assessment for AYP determinations. Doing so would mean that LEP students would not be held to grade-level content.

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans


 
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Last Modified: 07/13/2007