July 26, 2004
Honorable Nancy Grasmick
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Dear Superintendent Grasmick:
I am writing in response to Maryland'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 Maryland submitted to the Department on July 23, 2004. A list of the changes is attached to this letter. I am pleased to fully approve Maryland's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, Maryland makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Maryland 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 Maryland's accountability plan is not also an approval of Maryland's standards and assessment system. As Maryland makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Maryland 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 Maryland'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 Maryland'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 Maryland 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 Maryland in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
Amendments to the Maryland Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Maryland Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html
Assigning scores (Amendment 3.1)
Revision: High school students who take the geometry end-of-course assessment will be included in adequate yearly progress (AYP) decisions within that given year. That is, high schools students in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade who take the geometry end-of-course test during a given school year will have those results included in AYP decisions. Results from middle school students who take the geometry end-of-course test will be included in AYP decisions for the district and state.
Use of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (Element 5.3)
Request: Maryland will be using the final regulation in the Federal Register issued December 9, 2003, concerning the 1.0% cap. Specifically, Maryland will ensure that the number of proficient and advanced scores based on the alternate achievement standards does not exceed 1.0% of all students in the grades assessed at the State and LEA levels.
Assessment and accountability for LEP students (Element 5.4)
Revision: Maryland indicates they will apply the flexibility recently offered by the Department with respect to testing recently arrived LEP students in the English language proficiency assessment, reading/language arts, and mathematics assessment. Maryland indicates they will include "formerly LEP" students as LEP students in accountability decisions.
Other Indicators (Element 7.1)
Revision: Maryland has set its goals for the graduation rate to be that schools and subgroups either meet the goal or make progress towards it.
System and State AYP (Elements 3.2 and 5.1)
Revision: Maryland has determined that systems (LEAs) and the State will be identified for improvement if the system or any subgroup does not make AYP in the same subject and any grade span for two consecutive years. This approach already applies to schools.