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Decision Letter on Request to Amend Montana Accountability Plan

August 2, 2007

The 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 of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Following our discussions with your staff, the approved changes are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Montana submitted to the Department on July 30, 2007, 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 Montana accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I.

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.

I am confident that Montana 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 NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Collette Roney (Collette.Roney@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.

Enclosure

cc: Governor Brian Schweitzer
Nancy Coopersmith


Amendments to the Montana 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 Montana accountability plan.

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Starting points, annual measurable objectives (AMOs), and intermediate goals (Elements 1.2, 3.1, 3.2a-c)

Revision: Montana clarified that with the implementation of new assessments in 2005-06, Montana will use the following starting points, AMOs, and intermediate goals for the reading and mathematics assessments in grades 3-8 and high school:

Starting points, AMOs, and intermediate goals
Year Mathematics Reading
2005-06 51 74
2006-07 51 74
2007-08 68 83
2008-09 68 83
2009-10 68 83
2010-11 84 92
2011-12 84 92
2012-13 84 92
2013-14 100100

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 adequate yearly progress (AYP). For additional details, refer to the letter sent on August 7, 2006, by former Assistant Secretary Henry Johnson and Assistant Secretary John Hager.

Including students with disabilities in AYP (Element 5.3)

Revision: Montana will use the "proxy method" (option 1 in our guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the interim flexibility regarding calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the students with disabilities subgroup (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/070207.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 percentage proficient to re-examine if the school or district made AYP for the 2006-07 school year.

Unacceptable amendment

The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations and therefore not approved.

Apply small school process for AYP determination to all schools (Element 3.2)

The Department cannot approve Montana's request to extend its "small school review" (SSR) process for those schools with more than the minimum group size (30 students). This request is inconsistent with section 1111(b)(2) of the ESEA, which requires States to measure AYP according to statutory guidelines that requires setting a starting point, intermediate goals, and annual measurable objectives, against which all students and subgroups are measured. Montana's SSR, on the other hand, bases AYP determinations on a subjective scoring rubric and does not emphasize the performance of subgroups. In addition, the vast majority of students in the State (75 percent) are enrolled in 8 school districts, with the largest, Billings, enrolling 15,000 students. It is not necessary for large districts to use the SSR to ensure valid and reliable results.

Minimum subgroup size (Element 5.5)

Montana requested that the group size for accountability purposes for the "all students" group be increased from 30 to 40 students to match the minimum group size for student groups in the State. After reviewing impact data provided by the State, the Department is not able to approve this request. This increase in the group size would result in 50 percent of all schools in the State would be excluded from the statutorily defined accountability system and would be evaluated using the State's Small School Review process. In addition, it is not clear that the accountability system would need a minimum of 40 students in order for the percentage of students proficient or above in reading and mathematics to produce valid and reliable results.

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans


 
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Last Modified: 08/14/2007