June 12, 2009
The Honorable Tim Webb
Commissioner of Education
Tennessee Department of Education
Sixth Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0375
Dear Commissioner Webb:
On behalf of Secretary Duncan, I want to thank you for your hard work in implementing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). As you may know, the Secretary is traveling the country and listening to representatives from states and school districts, as well as other stakeholders, talk about the ways in which the 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 Tennessee's request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made changes to Tennessee’s accountability plan, which are now included in the amended plan that Tennessee submitted to the Department on May 7, 2009. I am pleased to approve Tennessee’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of Tennessee's requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Tennessee’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 Tennessee's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendments 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 Tennessee 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 Vicki.Robinson@ed.gov or Sharon.Hall@ed.gov of my staff.
Joseph C. Conaty
cc: Governor Phil Bredesen
Amendments to Tennessee's Accountability Plan
The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.
Accountability system includes all students (Element 2.1)
Revision: Tennessee will attribute performance achievement data of students remanded to alternative schools to the school that remanded the student. With this change, a student’s resident school will be accountable for ensuring the student receives an equal level of education while remanded to the alternative school.
Including students with disabilities in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 5.3)
Revision: Tennessee will use the "proxy method" (option 1 in the Department's guidance dated December 2005 and described in the Department’s Non-Regulatory Guidance regarding Modified Academic Achievement Standards) to take advantage of the transition flexibility authorized by 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g) regarding calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup. See the guidance at: www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/modachieve-summary.html). Tennessee will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of students with disabilities that is equivalent to two percent of all students assessed. For the 2008–09 school year only, this proxy will then be added to the percentage 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, Tennessee will use this adjusted percentage proficient to re-examine whether the school or district made AYP for the 2008–09 school year.
The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations and, therefore, is not approved.
Graduation rate (Element 7.1)
The Department cannot approve Tennessee's proposal to use an extended-year graduation rate in AYP determinations beginning with the 2008–09 school year that would include students who take more than the standard number of years to receive a regular diploma. Although the October 2008 amendments to the Title I regulations permit extended-year graduation rates (see 34 C.F.R. § 200.19(b)(1)(v)), this option is for states that are calculating an adjusted-cohort graduation rate. Tennessee is not currently able to calculate an adjusted-cohort rate, so this request is not aligned with the Department's regulations.