May 12, 2009
The Honorable Peter McWalters
Commissioner of Education
Rhode Island Department of Education
255 Westminster Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02903
Dear Commissioner McWalters:
On behalf of Secretary Duncan, I want to thank you for all your hard work over the past 17 years as Commissioner of Education at the Rhode Island Department of Education. Your contributions on behalf of Rhode Island's children have been immeasurable. As you may know, the Secretary is traveling the country and listening to states, districts, and other stakeholders talk about the ways in which the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (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 Rhode Island's request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, Rhode Island made a change to its accountability plan, which is now included in the amended state accountability plan that Rhode Island submitted to the Department on January 15, 2009. I am pleased to approve Rhode Island's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of Rhode Island's requested amendment is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Rhode Island'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 Rhode Island's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendment 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 Rhode Island 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 (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or (Sue.Rigney@ed.gov) of my staff.
Joseph C. Conaty
cc: Governor Donald L. Carcieri
Mary Ann Snider
Amendment to Rhode Island's Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of Rhode Island's amendment request. Please refer to the Department's website (www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for Rhode Island’s complete accountability plan.
The following amendment is aligned with the statute and regulations.
Graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: Rhode Island will begin using a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate consistent with 34 C.F.R. § 200.19(b), as amended in October 2008. For adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations based on 2008–09 assessment results, Rhode Island will use a graduation rate target of 70.1 percent. Rhode Island will also include, for the first time, an "improvement" component for the graduation rate calculation. For any district, school, or subgroup that does not meet the graduation rate target, the state will examine whether the district, school or subgroup experienced a 10 percent decrease in the gap between the prior year's graduation rate and the 2013–14 goal of 90 percent.
Please note that Rhode Island's graduation rate target and goal are approved only for use in making AYP determinations based on the results of assessments administered during the 2008–09 school year. In accordance with 34 C.F.R. § 200.19(b)(6)(ii), Rhode Island must submit for peer review and Department approval its graduation rate goal and targets for 2009–10 and beyond.