July 8, 2005
Dr. Douglas Christensen
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall, South, 6th Floor
P. O. Box 94987
Lincoln, NE 68509-4987
Dear Commissioner Christensen:
I am writing in response to Nebraska'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). The changes you requested are aligned with NCLB and are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Nebraska submitted to the Department on July 1, 2005. The changes are listed in an attachment to this letter.
As you know, Nebraska indicated in its accountability plan the intent to use a confidence interval for 'safe harbor' considerations. In my letter of September 23, 2004, I approved Nebraska's use of this statistical method but required the State to provide the Department information on the impact and implications of this approach as a condition of receiving final approval of Nebraska's accountability plan. This condition is also reflected on Nebraska's fiscal year 2004 Title I, Part A grant award. We have now received sufficient information from States to conclude that the use of a 75% confidence interval for 'safe harbor' considerations is a viable means of determining AYP. As a result, we are removing this condition from Nebraska's 2004 grant award. I appreciate the efforts Nebraska has made to remove the conditions on its accountability plan and ensure its ability to hold all schools accountable for the academic success of all students. I am pleased to fully approve Nebraska's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, Nebraska makes additional changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Nebraska must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Please note that approval of Nebraska's accountability plan is not also an approval of Nebraska's standards and assessment system. As Nebraska makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Nebraska must submit information about those changes to the Department for peer review through the standards and assessment process.
Please also be aware that approval of Nebraska'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 Nebraska will continue to advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If I can be of any additional assistance to Nebraska in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Dave Heineman
Amendment to the Nebraska Accountability Plan
This attachment is a summary of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Nebraska accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Definition for high school graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: Nebraska will include in calculating graduation rate students with disabilities who graduate with a regular diploma from a program described in their Individualized Educational Program that may take more than four years.
Revision: Nebraska will include in its graduation rate limited English proficient (LEP) students who are enrolled in a LEP program that provides services designed to allow a fifth year in order to receive a regular diploma. Inclusion of LEP students will be on a case-by-case basis determined by the district.