June 24, 2009
The Honorable Mitchell Chester
Massachusetts Department of Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, Massachusetts 02148-4906
Dear Commissioner Chester:
On behalf of Secretary Duncan, I want to thank you for your hard work in implementing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). As you may know, the Secretary is traveling the country and listening to representatives of states and school districts, as well as other stakeholders, talk about the ways in which the ESEA can be improved. These conversations will inform the next reauthorization of the statute. In the meantime, we will push towards our reform goals under the authority of, and in accordance with, the existing statute and regulations.
I am writing in response to Massachusetts’ request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made two changes to Massachusetts’ accountability plan, which are now included in the amended plan that Massachusetts submitted to the Department on June 9, 2009. I am pleased to approve Massachusetts’ amended plan, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of Massachusetts’ requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend 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 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 the ESEA, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov or Clayton.Hollingshead@ed.gov of my staff.
Joseph C. Conaty
Enclosurecc: Governor Deval Patrick
Amendments to Massachusett's Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of Massachusetts' amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html for Massachusetts’ complete accountability plan.
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Including students with disabilities in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: Massachusetts will use option 3 in the Department's 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 http://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 whether the school or district made AYP for the 2008–09 school year.
Please note that approval of the transition flexibility does not constitute approval of Massachusetts plan for developing modified academic achievement standards. Based on our conversations, the Department has some concerns about whether the approach proposed by Massachusetts will result in an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards consistent with the regulatory requirements. As a result, Massachusetts must provide a detailed plan to the Department, including how the state will ensure alignment with grade-level content in same manner as the general assessments, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).
Graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: For 2008–09 AYP determinations, Massachusetts increased its graduation rate target from 60 to 65 percent. In addition, Massachusetts is adding a five-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, consistent with the Department's regulations as amended in October 2008 (34 C.F.R. § 200.19(b)(1)(v)). In order to make AYP, a school or district will need to meet the target of 65 percent, increase its rate two percentage points from the previous year, or meet a target of 70 percent for the five-year adjusted-cohort graduation rate.
Please note that the Department is approving these graduation rate goal and targets for calculating AYP for the 2008–09 school year only. Massachusetts must submit information about its goal and targets for future years to the Department for peer review, as required in 34 C.F.R. § 200.19(b)(6).