September 30, 2004
Honorable Alice Seagren
Minnesota Department of Education
1500 Highway 36 West
Roseville, MN 55113
Dear Commissioner Seagren:
I am writing in response to Minnesota'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 Minnesota submitted to the Department on September 29, 2004. I am pleased to approve Minnesota's amendments. A list of the changes is attached to this letter. Additionally, based on information you have provided us, regarding the actions taken by the Minnesota Department of Education to finalize certain elements in the accountability plan required under NCLB, Minnesota has met all of its conditions of approval, as were detailed in Eugene W. Hickok's July 1, 2003 letter to Minnesota. As such, I am also pleased to inform you that I have determined that Minnesota's accountability plan is fully approved. We will post Minnesota's amended plan on the Department's website.
If, over time, Minnesota makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Minnesota 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 Minnesota's accountability plan is not also an approval of Minnesota's standards and assessment system. As Minnesota continues to develop its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Minnesota must submit information about those efforts to the Department for peer review through the standards and assessment process.
Please also be aware that approval of Minnesota'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 Minnesota' 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 Minnesota 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 Minnesota in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Tim Pawlenty
Amendments to the Minnesota Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Minnesota Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Alternate assessments (Element 1.3)
Revision: Minnesota will be using the final regulation in the Federal Register issued December 9, 2003, concerning the 1.0% cap. Specifically, Minnesota 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 of LEP students (Elements 2.1, 5.4)
Revision: Minnesota will utilize the flexibility that the Secretary’s letter of February 20, 2004, provides relative to LEP students for assessment and accountability purposes.
Participation rate (Elements 3.2, 10.1)
Revision: Minnesota has adopted the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate. Minnesota has also adopted the new flexibility regarding students who cannot take an assessment during the entire testing window, including make-up dates, due to a significant medical emergency. Additionally, Minnesota will no longer count students who did not participate in the State’s assessment as zeros in the reading/language arts and mathematics proficiency calculations. Students who do not participate in the State’s assessments will be counted against the participation rate calculations only.
Starting Points (Elements 3.2a)
Revision: Minnesota has updated its plan to include the State’s starting points in reading/language arts and mathematics based on new assessments administered at the middle and high school levels.
Intermediate Goals (Element 3.2c)
Revision: Minnesota has updated its plan to include the State’s intermediate goals in reading/language arts and mathematics based on new assessments administered at the middle and high school levels.
AYP for Small Schools (Elements 5.5, 10.2)
Revision: For small schools that do not have enough students to meet the State’s minimum cell size requirement for proficiency (20), Minnesota will combine data over two years. If schools still do not have enough students to meet the State’s minimum cell size requirement, Minnesota will still complete the standard AYP calculation and mark the determination with an asterisk indicating that the AYP rating is not statistically reliable due to the small cell size. Schools that believe the AYP determination to be inaccurate may appeal to the State for a further review.
Academic Assessments (Element 6.1)
Revision: Minnesota has provided updated information on the design and implementation of the new academic assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics that the State will administer and use for making adequate yearly progress determinations in the 2005-2006 school year.