October 23, 2006
Honorable Linda McCulloch
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Montana Office of Public Instruction
1227 11th Avenue
Helena, Montana 59620-2501
Dear Superintendent McCulloch:
I am writing in response to Montana'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 changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Montana submitted to the Department on October 16, 2006. I am pleased to fully approve the revised plan, which will be posted on the Department's website. A summary of the approved amendments is enclosed with this letter.
As you know, any further requests to amend the Montana accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Please note that approval of Montana's accountability plan does not constitute approval of the State's standards and assessment system.
Please also be aware that approval of Montana'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.
NCLB has provided a vehicle for States to raise the achievement of all students and to close the achievement gap. We are seeing the results of our combined endeavor; achievement is rising throughout the nation. I appreciate Montana's efforts to raise the achievement of all students and hold all schools accountable. If you need any additional assistance to implement the standards, assessments, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Timothy Vansickle (Tim.Vansickle@ed.gov) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Brian Schweitzer Nancy Coopersmith
Amendments to the Montana Accountability pPan
The following is a summary of the State's approved amendments. Please refer to the Department's website (refer to: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for the complete Montana Accountability plan.
Timeline for making adequate yearly progress determinations (Element 1.4)
Revision: Montana will conduct standard setting for new assessments in summer 2006 and will receive test data from its contractor in October 2006. The State will conduct its Small School Review, using all data available, in August 2006. Preliminary data for all schools, including those going through the Small School Review, will be available in November 2006. Montana clarifies that schools currently identified for improvement will offer services before the beginning of the school year, which will continue even if final AYP determinations indicate that the school is no longer identified for improvement. Due to the rural nature of the State, public school choice is not a viable option for the majority of schools that are identified for improvement. Montana encourages districts to provide supplemental educational services to eligible students in schools in the first year of being identified for improvement. As soon as preliminary data are available in November 2006, Montana will immediately contact schools and districts regarding their AYP status. Schools and districts that would be required to implement consequences based on preliminary data will be contacted to confirm their status and inform them of consequences, expectations, and timelines. Schools and districts that move into or further along the AYP consequences must act on preliminary data and immediately begin the improvement process including: parental notification, mandated set-asides, and the appropriate consequences.
Re-establishing starting points, annual measurable objectives (AMOs), and intermediate goals (Elements 3.2a, 3.2b, and 3.2c)
Revision: As part of the implementation of new assessments, Montana will establish new AMOs to reach 100 percent proficiency by 2013-14. Montana will submit these starting points, AMOs, and intermediate goals to the Department for approval and subsequent addition to the State accountability plan.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: Montana will use the "proxy method" (option 1 in our guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the Secretary's flexibility regarding calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/secletter/051214a.html). Montana will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of students with disabilities that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. For this year only, this proxy will then be added to the percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient. For any school or district that did not make AYP solely due to its students with disabilities subgroup, Montana will use this adjusted percent proficient to re-examine if the school or district made AYP for the 2005-06 school year.
Exception of the 1.0 percent limit for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities taking an assessment with alternate achievement standards (Element 5.3)
Revision: As approved by the Department in a separate letter, Montana, for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years, will continue to allow every small district in the State (districts with fewer than 200 students in tested grades) to count up to two proficient scores based on alternate achievement standards when calculating AYP. For additional details, refer to the letter sent on August 7, 2006, by Assistant Secretary Henry Johnson and Assistant Secretary John Hager.
Calculation of participation rates (Element 10.1)
Revision: Montana clarified that students with invalid assessment scores are counted as non-participants for the purpose of calculating the participation rate.