July 29, 2004
Honorable Lana Seivers
Commissioner of Education
Tennessee Department of Education
Andrew Johnson Tower 6th Floor
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0375
Dear Commissioner Seivers:
I am writing in response to Tennessee'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). Following our discussions with your staff, those changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended state accountability plan that Tennessee submitted to the Department on June 14, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to approve Tennessee's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, Tennessee makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Tennessee 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 Tennessee's accountability plan is not also an approval of Tennessee's standards and assessment system. As Tennessee makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Tennessee 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 Tennessee'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 hope that you have found the accountability plan amendment process effective for implementing a state accountability system that best serves the needs of Tennessee's students and schools and that will lead to improving the academic achievement of all students. As evidenced by the diversity among state accountability plans and state consolidated applications, States have great flexibility in the design of their systems and implementation of particular NCLB provisions. If, as you implement your accountability plan, you find additional elements of your plan that you believe should be refined or amended for next school year to best serve the needs of your students and schools, I encourage you to explore all the areas of flexibility available to your State.
In addition to the flexibility available to States in the design and implementation of their accountability plans, I also encourage you and your districts to utilize the additional flexibility available for the administration and operation of NCLB programs. NCLB continued the flexibility available to States and districts under the 1994 reauthorization of the ESEA, including the ability to consolidate state and local administrative funds (sections 9201 and 9203), to operate schoolwide programs (section 1114), and to participate in the Education Flexibility Partnership Program ("Ed-Flex"). Additionally, NCLB created several new flexibility options for States and districts for the operation of federal programs. These new flexibility provisions include the State Flexibility Authority (sections 6141 through 6144), the Local Flexibility Demonstration program (sections 6151 through 6156), Transferability (sections 6121 through 6123), and the Rural Education Achievement program (sections 6201 through 6234). These flexibilities truly offer States and districts the ability to target federal resources to their unique and individual needs.
I am confident that Tennessee 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 Tennessee in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Phil Bredesen
Amendments to the Tennessee Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Tennessee accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Tests for AYP purposes (Element 1.3)
Revision: Tennessee will delay the use of tests given in grades 4, 6, and 7 for AYP purposes until 2005-06. AYP will be based upon tests given in 3,5, 8, and high school.
Confidence Interval (Element 3.1, 5.2, 9.1 )
Revision: Tennessee will apply a 95% confidence interval to AYP decisions.
Use of assessment results in AYP decisions (Element 3.1)
Revision: Middle school students who take the middle school math and high school math test will bank their high school math results until they are enrolled in high school.
District identification for improvement (Element 3.1)
Revision: Tennessee will identify districts for improvement only when they do not make AYP in the same subject and both grade spans (i.e., elementary/middle school and high school) for two consecutive years. In implementing this provision, States 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 that supplemental services are available to eligible students from a variety of providers throughout the State (including in LEAs that have not been identified for improvement but that have schools that have been in improvement for more than one year).
Use of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (Element 5.3)
Revision: Tennessee indicates it will implement the flexibility promulgated in our December 2003 regulation related to alternate assessments based on alternate achievement scores.
Assessment and Accountability for LEP students (Element 5.4)
Revision: Tennessee will include the flexibility that the Secretary's letter of February 20, 2004 provides relative to limited English proficient students for assessment and accountability purposes.
Subgroup sizes (Element 5.5)
Revision: Tennessee's group size will be 45 students or 1% of the enrolled student populations, whichever is greater.
Other Indicators (Elements 7.1, 7.2)
Revision: Tennessee has set its goals for the other indicators for both elementary/middle school (93% attendance rate or improvement) and high school (90% or improvement).
Participation Rate (Element 2.1, 10.1)
Revision: Tennessee will adopt the new flexibility regarding students who have medical emergencies during the testing window and its affect on a school's participation rate. Tennessee will also adopt the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate.
Rounding Rules (Element 3.1, 3.2b)
Revision: Tennessee has indicated it will use standard rounding rules when making AYP decisions.