June 9, 2009
The Honorable June St. Clair Atkinson
Superintendent of Public Instruction
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
301 North Wilmington Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601-2825
Dear Superintendent Atkinson:
On behalf of Secretary Duncan, I want to thank you for your hard work in implementing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). As you may know, the Secretary is traveling the country and listening to representatives from states and school districts, as well as other stakeholders, to talk about the ways in which the ESEA can be improved. These conversations will inform the next reauthorization of the statute. In the meantime, we will push towards our reform goals under the authority of, and in accordance with, the existing statute and regulations.
I am writing in response to North Carolina’s request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made certain changes to North Carolina’s accountability plan, which are now included in the amended plan that North Carolina submitted to the Department on May 12, 2009. I am pleased to approve North Carolina’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of North Carolina’s requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend North Carolina’s accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I of the ESEA.
Please also be aware that approval of North Carolina’s accountability plan for Title I, including the amendments approved herein, 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 North Carolina 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 the ESEA, please do not hesitate to contact Vicki.Robinson@ed.gov or Sue.Rigney@ed.gov of my staff.
Joseph C. Conaty
cc: Governor Bev Perdue
Amendments to North Carolina's Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of North Carolina's amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html for North Carolina’s complete accountability plan.
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Method of adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 3.2)
Revision: North Carolina will allow students in grades 3 through 8 to take the end-of-grade tests multiple times and for schools and districts to use the best result in AYP determinations. All students who do not score proficient or above on the initial test administration will be afforded the opportunity to retake the test. Beginning in the 2009–10 school year, North Carolina will permit high school students to retest on the end-of-course tests and for schools and districts to use the best results in AYP determinations. Each school district will be able to determine when students would be given their first retest opportunity. The original test scores and the first retest scores from the schools and districts must be submitted to the state by June 30 so that preliminary AYP determinations are made by mid-to-late July. The State Board of Education will officially approve the schools' and districts' AYP determinations by August 6th, which will be sufficient time for all districts to notify parents of their public school choice options, if applicable, at least 14 days prior to the start of the school year.
Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: In determining AYP for the subgroup of students with disabilities, North Carolina will include, for up to two AYP determination cycles, the scores of students who were previously classified as students with disabilities but who no longer receive special education services. The inclusion of the assessment scores of these students in AYP calculations for the students with disabilities subgroup will occur only in those instances in which the existing students with disabilities subgroup in the school or district has not made AYP.
The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations and is therefore not approved.
Assigning scores (Element 3.2)
The Department cannot approve North Carolina's proposal to allow students enrolled in Algebra I in middle school to take an Algebra I end-of-course (EOC) test in place of the grade-level test, end-of-grade (EOG) mathematics assessment, and count the results of the Algebra I EOC assessment in AYP determinations for eighth grade mathematics, and to allow those students to take a different EOC test, such as Geometry or Algebra II, in high school and count the results of that other EOC assessment in AYP determinations for high school mathematics.
Section 1111(b)(1)(B), (C) of the ESEA requires that a state's academic content and achievement standards "be the same academic standards that the State applies to all schools and children in the State" and "include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all children." In addition, section 1111(b)(3)(C)(i) requires that a state's academic assessments "be the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all children." Further, section 1111(b)(2)(A)(i) of the ESEA requires that a state's accountability system "be based on the academic standards and academic assessments adopted under [sections 1111(b)(1) and 1111(b)(3)] . . . ." The Title I regulations mirror these statutory requirements. See 34 C.F.R. §§ 200.1(a)(1), (2), 200.2(b)(1), 200.12(b)(1). This proposed amendment conflicts with these statutory and regulatory requirements.