July 2, 2007
The Honorable Hank M. Bounds
Mississippi Department of Education
P. O. Box 771
Jackson, Mississippi 39205-0771
Dear Superintendent Bounds:
I am writing in response to Mississippi'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, the approved change is now included in an amended State accountability plan that Mississippi submitted to the Department on June 25, 2007. I am pleased to fully approve Mississippi's amended plan, 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 Mississippi accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I.
I want to take this opportunity to comment on the State's graduation rate. We have recently determined, through conversations with your staff, that the State's current graduation rate includes retained students who graduate in more than four years in the numerator of the calculation. Under the statute and regulations, only students who graduate with a regular diploma in the standard number of years may be included in the numerator. We understand that you are working on a new gradation rate that will be used by the 2008-09 school year. I have asked my staff to work with your staff so that, for the 2007-08 school year, Mississippi has a transitional definition that is compliant with the statute and regulations.
Please be aware that approval of Mississippi's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendment 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 Mississippi 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Grace Ross (email@example.com).
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Haley Barbour
Amendments to the Mississippi 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 Mississippi accountability plan.
The following amendment is approved.
Participation rate calculations (Element 10.1)
Revision: Beginning in 2006-07, the Mississippi high school participation rate will include all students with disabilities. In 2005-06 and previous years, some high school students with significant cognitive disabilities in self-contained classrooms were excluded from the assessment and accountability system because they were not enrolled in Algebra I and English II classes and were not given an alternate assessment. The previous participation rate was the number of Algebra I and English II course-takers who took the State assessment in any given year divided by the number of Algebra I and English II course-takers. For 2006-07 and beyond, the Mississippi high school participation rate will include all 12th-grade students enrolled in the State from grade 10-12 in the denominator and, in the numerator, students who took the Algebra I and English II assessments, as well as students with significant cognitive disabilities who took the alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards by grade 12. In 2006-07, some 12th-grade students with disabilities did not enroll in Algebra I and English II at any point in their academic career and therefore did not take those end-of-course assessments. They also did not take an alternate assessment. These students must be counted as non-participants. In future years, Mississippi will ensure that all students with disabilities will be assessed at least once within the secondary grade span.
The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations and is therefore not approved.
Including students with disabilities in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 5.3)
Mississippi requested using the "proxy method" (Option 1 in the Department's guidance dated May 7, 2005) to take advantage of the interim flexibility related to calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup. The Department's May 10, 2005, guidance for this flexibility (www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/raising/disab-acctplan.html) explained that States must meet certain core principles in order to be eligible. The core principles require, among other things, that Statewide assessment participation rates for the students with disabilities subgroup, for purposes of measuring AYP, must be at or above 95 percent in the prior year. Mississippi's participation rate in 2005-06 for the students with disabilities subgroup was 86 percent. The core principles also require that each State provide information on actions taken to raise achievement for students with disabilities or narrow the achievement gaps, as well as and evidence that such efforts are improving student achievement for this group of students. Results of the Mississippi State assessment indicate declining achievement for the students with disabilities subgroup each year since 2003-04 in every grade in both English/language arts and mathematics. Given these two factors, the Department cannot approve Mississippi's request.