July 30, 2007
The Honorable Jim Rex
State Superintendent of Education
South Carolina Department of Education
1006 Rutledge Building
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201
Dear Superintendent Rex:
I am writing in response to South Carolina'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 approved changes are now included in an amended State accountability plan that South Carolina submitted to the Department on July 26, 2007, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of the amendments submitted for the 2006-07 school year is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend the South Carolina accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I.
Please also be aware that approval of South Carolina'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 South Carolina 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 NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) of my staff.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Mark Sanford
Amendments to the South Carolina Accountability Plan
The following is a summary of South Carolina's amendment requests.
The following amendments are approved.
General workbook clean-up (Elements 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 3.2, 3.2a, 4.1, 5.1, 5.2, 5.5, 9.1, 9.3, and 10.1)
Revision: South Carolina clarified the language throughout its workbook to represent current standards and assessment practice in the State.
Including all schools in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 1.1)
Revision: South Carolina will base AYP determinations for schools without a tested grade on the student performance for those students in the first year of being assessed in the feeder school. For example, schools with a grade configuration of kindergarten through grade 2 will have an AYP determination based upon the reading and mathematics performance of students in grade 3 in the feeder school.
Alternate assessment (Element 2.1)
Revision: South Carolina clarifies that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities will take the SC-Alt assessment beginning with the 2006-07 school year in place of the PACT-Alt and HSAP-Alt assessments. Please note that approval of this amendment by the Department does not constitute approval of the SC-Alt assessment. It must be peer reviewed as part of our responsibility to ensure that State standards and assessments meet NCLB requirements.
Including students in group homes in AYP determinations (Element 2.3)
Revision: South Carolina will include at the district level, but not at the school level, students in State-run group homes, when calculating AYP. Any student in the State-run group home that attends a local public school must be included in that school's AYP determination, but students in the State-run group homes who do not attend a local public school will not be included in a school's AYP determination but will be included in the district AYP determination.
Science assessment (Element 5.3)
Revision: South Carolina clarifies that, beginning in the 2007-08 school year, it will administer a science assessment in one grade each at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Please note that approval of this amendment by the Department does not constitute approval of the South Carolina science assessments. They must be peer reviewed as part of our responsibility to ensure that State standards and assessments meet NCLB requirements.
Definition of limited English proficient (LEP) (Element 5.4)
Revision: South Carolina will count a student as no longer LEP once the student has scored proficient on the English language proficiency examination for two consecutive years.
Graduation rate (Element 7.1)
Revision: When calculating graduation rate, South Carolina will include any student with a disability who receives a regular diploma in more than four years provided the student has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that indicates a graduation date beyond four years.
The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and therefore are not approved.
Definition of a reconstituted school (Element 1.2)
South Carolina proposed to change the requirement for a school to be considered a reconstituted school from a change in the student body of 50 percent to 35 percent from the previous year. The Department cannot approve South Carolina's proposal. The Department believes that a school in which 65 percent of the student body remains unchanged from the previous year has not truly been reconstituted.
Including foreign exchange students in AYP determinations (Elements 2.1 and 5.4)
The Department cannot approve South Carolina's proposal to exclude foreign exchange students from the participation rate, graduation rate, or proficiency rate when determining AYP. As the Department stated in a letter to Chief State School Officers in March 2003 regarding the inclusion of foreign exchange students (refer to: ncela.gwu.edu/pubs/legislation/nclb/foreignexchange03.pdf):
An important goal of No Child Left Behind is to help English language learners who reside in the United States attain English proficiency, develop high levels of academic attainment in English, and meet the same challenging content standards expected of all students. The requirements of No Child Left Behind, however, should not deter a school district from accepting foreign exchange students. First, many foreign exchange students from non-English speaking countries have enough command of English to benefit from regular classroom instruction in English and, for that reason, would not be considered limited English proficient under No Child Left Behind. Second, even if a foreign exchange student is limited English proficient, No Child Left Behind does not mandate a particular type of instruction for that student, but gives school districts the flexibility to select, consistent with State law, an appropriate method for serving that student. Finally, assessment results for foreign exchange students who are enrolled in a school in the United States for less than a year, even if they are limited English proficient, are not to be included in the school-level measurement of adequate yearly progress required by No Child Left Behind.
Please note that, pursuant to the Department's September 2006 regulations, any foreign exchange student who is limited English proficient may be exempted from taking the reading/language arts assessment and the results of the mathematics assessment do not need to be included in AYP determinations.
Annual measurable objectives (AMOs) and intermediate goals for AYP determinations (Element 3.2c)
South Carolina proposed to continue, for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years, the 2006-07 AMOs for elementary and middle schools. The 2006-07 elementary/middle school AMOs are 38.2 percent for English/language arts and 36.7 percent for mathematics. These AMOs have been the same for three consecutive years. They are due to increase in 2007-08 to 58.8 percent for English/language arts and 57.8 for mathematics. The Department cannot approve South Carolina's request. Section 1111(b)(2)(H)(iii) of the ESEA states that "each State shall establish intermediate goals for meeting the requirements, including the measurable objectives…, that…provide for each following increase to occur in not more than 3 years." South Carolina's proposal would keep the AMOs at the same level for five consecutive years.
Graduation rate (Element 7.1)
The Department cannot approve either South Carolina's proposal to add a five-year graduation rate for all students to be used in AYP determinations or South Carolina's proposal to allow districts and schools to make AYP if the sole reason they otherwise fail to make AYP is due to their graduation rate. Section 1111(b)(2)(c)(vi) of the ESEA requires that graduation rate be based on students graduating in the "standard number of years," which is generally not five years. Similarly, the request to waive the graduation rate requirement if that is the sole reason a school or district does not make AYP is beyond the statute and regulations. Section 1111(b)(2)(c)(vi) of the ESEA requires that all high schools and districts include graduation rate in AYP determinations.