August 15, 2006
Dr. Lyonel Tracy
Commissioner of Education
New Hampshire Department of Education
101 Pleasant Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301
Dear Commissioner Tracy:
I am writing regarding your submission of amendments to the New Hampshire State Accountability Workbook, and the use of those amendments to make AYP determinations prior to their being approved. As you know, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), provides a State the flexibility to revise its accountability plan.
My March 8, 2006, letter to Chief State School Officers informed you that any changes New Hampshire makes to its accountability plan must be submitted to the U.S Department of Education (Department) for approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of the ESEA. New Hampshire has made numerous changes to its State accountability plan since its approval on September 15, 2005. New Hampshire incorporated those changes into a revised Workbook that it submitted to the Department for approval on March 31, 2006. Several of those amendments substantially alter components of the plan, including:
- Attributing test scores from the fall assessment to the prior year;
- Revising the academic achievement levels to reflect a new assessment system;
- Adjusting the timeline for the release of accountability reports;
- Amending the definition of full academic year to accommodate the shift from spring to fall testing for grades 3-8;
- Revising the performance index for AYP determinations;
- Revising annual measurable objectives;
- Adjusting the calculation of safe harbor;
- Increasing the minimum n size for AYP determinations; and
- Applying interim flexibility regarding determining AYP for the students with disabilities group.
I have reviewed the amendments you have requested and find them acceptable with the exception of the increase in minimum n size. Following discussion with my staff, New Hampshire has withdrawn this amendment request. New Hampshire has also agreed to submit a revised performance index for calculating 2006-07 AYP determinations to the Department for approval. New Hampshire's amended accountability workbook that you submitted on July 24, 2006, is fully approved and will be posted on the Department's website. Please note that we will be soon requesting time to meet with you to develop an index for the 2006-07 that is more closely aligned with the new achievement levels established on the New England Common Assessment Program.
I understand that New Hampshire made adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations for the based on assessments administered during the 2005-06 school year using several of the amendments listed above that had been submitted to the Department but not yet approved. 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. By not using its approved plan to make AYP determinations based on assessments administered during the 2005-06 school year, New Hampshire is subject to the loss of federal funding. In this one instance, however, the Secretary will not withhold New Hampshire's federal funds only because New Hampshire revised AYP determinations based on assessments administered during the 2005-06 school year to be based on criteria that are compliant with ESEA. In the future, please do not deviate from your amended plan as approved by the Department.
I remind you that, if New Hampshire makes additional changes to the amended accountability plan that has been approved, you must submit information about those changes to the Department for approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of the ESEA. These changes must be approved prior to their use by New Hampshire to make AYP determinations. If you need any additional assistance in your efforts to implement the standards, assessments and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Abigail Potts (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Valeria Ford (email@example.com) of my staff.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor John Lynch
Amendments to the New Hampshire accountability plan
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 New Hampshire accountability plan.
Inclusion of All Schools (Element 1.2)
Revision: With the transition to fall testing, New Hampshire proposes to attribute assessment scores to the prior grade and participation rates to the current grade.
Academic Achievement Standards (Element 1.3)
Revision: New Hampshire revised this section to reflect the achievement standards of the new grade 3-8 assessment system for reading and mathematics, the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). The four achievement levels include Substantially Below Proficient, Partially Proficient, Proficient, and Proficient with Distinction.
Timely AYP Decisions (Element 1.4)
Revision: With transition to fall testing for grades 3-8, accountability reports will be released prior to the end of the school year in which the assessments are administered. Please note that this approval does not constitute approval of the plan proposed for high school assessment and its transition to a fall administration.
Full Academic Year (Element 2.2)
Revision: With the transition to fall testing for grades 3-8, New Hampshire will revise the definition of full academic year to continuous enrollment in the school/district since the first business day in October of the previous school year. Since this information was not collected in October of the 2004-05 school year, for this year only, New Hampshire has proposed a transitional proxy of 310 half days of enrollment for the 2004-05 school year.
Performance Index (Element 3.2)
Revision: New Hampshire proposed to adjust its performance index to account for the transition to a new assessment system with four achievement levels. New Hampshire will allocate 100 index points for performance at the Proficient with Distinction and Proficient level, 80 points for the upper portion of Partially Proficient, 60 points for the lower portion of Partially Proficient, 40 points for the upper portion of Substantially Below Proficient, 20 points for the lower portion of Substantially Below Proficient and 0 points for No Score.
New Hampshire may use the proposed index, as is, for the AYP determinations based on assessments administered in the 2005-06 school year AYP determinations made during the summer of 2006. New Hampshire will resubmit a new index, based upon conversations with Department staff, for approval for use in making AYP determinations for assessments administered in the 2006-07 school year.
Annual Measurable Objectives (Element 3.2)
Revision: With the transition to a new 3-8 assessment system, New Hampshire revised its annual measurable objectives and intermediate goals based upon these new assessments and its performance index. Pending discussion about the index to be used in 2006-07, these AMOs may be revised. The new AMOs are listed below:
Safe Harbor (Element 3.2)
Revision: With the transition to a new 3-8 assessment system, New Hampshire has proposed a transitional measure for safe harbor to compare the NHEIAP assessment results from May 2004 to NECAP results from October 2005 using an equi-percentile comparison.
Including students with disabilities in adequate yearly progress (Element 5.3)
Revision: New Hampshire will use the "proxy method" (Option 1 in the Department's guidance dated May 7, 2005) to take advantage of the interim flexibility regarding determining AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup. New Hampshire will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of students with disabilities that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. For the 2005-06 AYP determinations, this proxy will then be added to the percent 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, New Hampshire will use this adjusted percent proficient to reexamine if the school or district made AYP for the 2005-06 school year.