August 4, 2006
The Honorable Wayne G. Sanstead
Superintendent of Public Instruction
North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
State Capitol Building, 11th Floor
600 Boulevard Avenue
East Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0440
Dear Superintendent Sanstead:
I am writing in response to North Dakota'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 changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that North Dakota submitted to the Department on August 4, 2006. I am pleased to fully approve North Dakota's 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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota' accountability plan does not constitute approval of the State's standards and assessment system (including the North Dakota Alternate Assessment based upon modified achievement standards).
I understand that North Dakota made adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations for the 2006-07 school year using the amendments listed below that had been submitted to the Department but not yet approved or, in the case of the North Dakota Alternate Assessment based upon modified achievement standards for the Secretary's interim flexibility for students with disabilities, that had not been submitted to the Department for review. This unacceptable action impedes the Secretary's duty to ensure that States are implementing accountability plans that meet the requirements of Title I, Part A of ESEA. The Secretary takes this duty seriously and is inclined to withhold Title I funds from any State that does not fulfill its assurance of implementing its approved plan. In this one instance, however, the Secretary will not withhold North Dakota's federal funds only because the criteria it used to make AYP determinations are compliant with the ESEA. In the future, please do not deviate from your amended plan as approved by the Department, lest you be subject to financial consequences.
Please also be aware that approval of North Dakota' 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 North Dakota'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 Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor John Hoeven Greg Gallagher
Amendments to the North Dakota Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of the State's approved amendment. Please refer to the Department's website www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for the complete North Dakota accountability plan.
Calculations of adequate yearly progress (AYP) (Element 4.1)
Revision: For the 2005-06 school year, North Dakota will calculate AYP for schools and districts based exclusively upon a uniform average of data across the current year and the two previous years. These results will include assessments in grades for which there are three years of data (grades 4, 8, and 11). For AYP determinations based upon assessments conducted in 2005-06, North Dakota will no longer use the most advantageous result of averages over one, two, or three years.
Students with disabilities (Element 5.3)
Revision: North Dakota will implement the Secretary's flexibility regarding calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/secletter/051214a.html). Schools and districts will include as proficient (up to a 2.0 percent cap at the district and State level) students who take the North Dakota Alternate Assessment based upon modified achievement standards, which assesses grade-level academic content standards and is based on modified achievement standards. Please note that the Department has approved this amendment for the 2005-06 school year only. Further, approval of this amendment does not constitute approval of this assessment by the Department as part of our review to ensure that State standards and assessment systems meet NCLB requirements.