LEAD & MANAGE MY SCHOOL
Decision Letter on Request to Amend Massachusetts Accountability Plan

August 18, 2008

The Honorable Mitch Chester
Commissioner
Massachusetts Department of Education
350 Main Street
Malden, Massachusetts 02148-5023

Dear Commissioner Chester:

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 discussions between the Department and your staff, you made certain changes to your state accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that Massachusetts submitted to the Department on August 12, 2008. I am pleased to fully approve Massachusetts' amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of the amendments submitted for the 2007-08 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 of the ESEA.

Please also be aware that approval of Massachusetts' 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 Massachusetts will continue to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If you need any additional assistance in implementing the standards, assessment, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Clayton Hollingshead (Clayton.Hollingshead@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.

Enclosure

cc: Governor Deval Patrick
Matt Pakos


Amendments to 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 Massachusetts' complete accountability plan.

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Racial/ethnic groups included in AYP (Element 5.1)

Revision: In 2006, Massachusetts changed its collection of student race and ethnicity data to meet revised federal reporting standards and began reporting results on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) for two additional student groups: Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Multi-Race/Non-Hispanic. For AYP purposes, Massachusetts will continue to report students who are identified as Native Hawaiian in the Asian or Pacific Islander subgroup and students who are identified as non-Hispanic and having two or more races in the aggregate but not one of the individual racial categories.

Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)

Revision: Massachusetts will use option 3 in our guidance dated December 2005 to take advantage of the transition flexibility 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) 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, with the total number of students who can be so selected being 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 2007-08 school year.

Minimum group size for AYP calculations (Element 5.5)

Revision: As of 2007, Massachusetts issues annual AYP performance calculations based on a single year of data (rather than a two-year average as was done previously) and improvement/safe harbor calculations based on one year of data compared to the previous year of data. Massachusetts clarifies that school and district AYP determinations for student subgroups will be issued whenever:

  1. (A) There are 40 or more subgroup members, AND (B) The number of subgroup members is at least five percent of students whose assessment results are included in the school's or district's aggregate AYP calculation; OR
  2. The number of subgroup members is 200 or more.

Graduation rate (Element 7.1)

Revision: For 2007-08 AYP determinations, Massachusetts will use a four-year cohort longitudinal graduation rate for the other academic indicator for high schools. In order to make AYP, the target will be 60 percent or a two percentage-point increase from the previous year. Please note that the Department is approving this graduation rate target for calculating AYP for the 2007-08 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 amendments

The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and therefore are not approved.

Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)

The Department cannot approve Massachusetts' request to exceed, statewide, the 1.0 percent cap on the percentage of proficient or above scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities on an alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards that may be included in AYP calculations. Massachusetts has requested expanding the cap to 1.5 percent. 34 C.F.R. § 200.13(c)(4) explicitly prohibits a state from exceeding the cap of 1.0 percent.

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 for 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 a 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 statute nor the 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 standards.

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans


 
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Last Modified: 08/28/2008