August 19, 2005
Dr. Francis V. Barnes
Secretary of Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street, 10th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Dear Secretary Barnes:
I am writing in response to Pennsylvania'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 Pennsylvania submitted to the Department on June 30, 2005. The changes are listed in an attachment to this letter.
As you know, Pennsylvania indicated in its accountability plan the intent to use a confidence interval for 'safe harbor' considerations. In former Assistant Secretary Raymond Simon's letter of June 3, 2004, he approved Pennsylvania'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 Pennsylvania's accountability plan. This condition is also reflected on Pennsylvania's fiscal year 2004 Title I, Part A grant award. We have 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 Pennsylvania’s 2004 grant award. I am pleased to fully approve Pennsylvania's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, Pennsylvania makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Pennsylvania must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Approval of Pennsylvania's accountability plan is not also an approval of Pennsylvania's standards and assessment system. As Pennsylvania makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania'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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
Henry L. Johnson
cc: Governor Edward G. Rendell
Amendments to the Pennsylvania Accountability Plan
This attachment is a summary of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Pennsylvania accountability plan on the Department’s website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Criteria for Entering District Improvement Status (Elements 3.2 and 5.2)
Revision: Pennsylvania proposes to base identification of districts in need of improvement on missing AYP for two consecutive years in the additional indicators or same subject area, across all grade spans: Elementary (3-5), Middle (6-8), and High School (9-12). In implementing this provision, Pennsylvania should 1) monitor districts that have not made AYP in one grade span but have not been identified for improvement to ensure they are making the necessary curricular and instructional changes to improve achievement, and 2) take steps to ensure supplemental services are available to eligible students from a variety of providers throughout the state (including in districts that have not been identified for improvement but that have schools that have been in improvement for more than one year).
Incorporate Pennsylvania Performance Index (PPI) in Evaluating School and District Status (Element 3.2)
Revision: In addition to status and 'safe harbor,' Pennsylvania requests to use the PPI growth index to determine whether a school or district makes AYP. If a school or district does not meet AYP through status or 'safe harbor,' it will be determined to make AYP if it meets its PPI target.
Inclusion of students with disabilities (Element 5.3)
Revision: Pennsylvania will use the "proxy method" (Option 1 in our guidance dated May 7, 2005) to take advantage of the Secretary’s flexibility regarding modified academic achievement standards. Pennsylvania will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of special education students that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. For this year only, this proxy will then be added to the percent of students with disabilities who are proficient. This adjusted percent proficient is what a State may use to reexamine if the school made AYP for the 2004-05 school year.