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Decision Letter on Request to Amend Utah Accountability Plan

June 25, 2007

The Honorable Patti Harrington
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Utah State Office of Education
PO Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200

Dear Superintendent Harrington:

I am writing in response to Utah'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 Utah submitted to the Department on June 18, 2007. I am pleased to fully approve the amended plan, which will be posted 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 additional requests to amend the Utah accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I.

Please be aware that approval of Utah's accountability plan, 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.

NCLB has provided a vehicle for States to raise the achievement of all students and to close the achievement gap. We are seeing the results of our combined endeavor; achievement is rising throughout the nation. I appreciate Utah's efforts to raise the achievement of its students and to hold all schools accountable. If you need any additional assistance to implement the standards, assessments, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Freeman (catherine.freeman@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.

Enclosure

cc: Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Judy Park


Amendments to the Utah Accountability Plan

The following is a summary of the State's amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website (www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for the complete Utah accountability plan.

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Including Students with Disabilities in adequate yearly progress (AYP) (Element 5.3)

Revision: Utah will take advantage of the interim flexibility regarding determining AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup, using option 2 in our guidance (refer to: www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/070207.html). Schools and districts will include as proficient (up to a 2.0 percent cap at the district and State levels) students who take the Utah alternate assessment based upon modified academic achievement standards (UAA). Please note that approval of this amendment by the Department does not constitute approval of Utah's modified academic achievement standards or the UAA assessment by the Department as part of our responsibility to ensure that State standards and assessment systems meet NCLB requirements.

Counting students no longer receiving services in the students with disabilities subgroup (Element 5.3)

Revision: When calculating the percentage of students proficient to determine AYP for the students with disabilities group, Utah will include the scores of students who previously received services within the prior two years, pursuant to the regulations issued by the Department on April 9, 2007.

Unacceptable amendments

The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and are therefore not approved.

Reordering choice/SES (Element 1.6)

At this time, the Department declines to approve Utah's proposal to switch the order of choice and SES. However, the Department is inviting eligible States to apply for participation in the SES Pilot Program that allows some of their school districts with schools in year 1 of school improvement the option of providing SES to students instead of public school choice. Please see www.ed.gov/nclb/choice/help/ses/07agreements.html.

Targeting choice/SES to non-proficient students (Element 1.6)

The Department cannot approve Utah's proposal to target choice and SES only to non-proficient students in schools that are identified for improvement. Section 1116(b)(1)(E) of Title I affords the opportunity to transfer schools to all students in a school identified for improvement and section 1116(e) extends eligibility for SES to all students from low-income families. Only if a districts needs to prioritize because it cannot meet all demand may it target these options to the lowest-achieving students.

Identifying schools for improvement (Elements 1.6, 9.1)

The Department cannot approve Utah's proposal to base school improvement designations on the same subgroup failing to make AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years. Section 1116(b)(1) of Title I requires a State to identify for school improvement any Title I school that fails, for two consecutive years, to make AYP as defined under section 1111(b)(2). There is flexibility in section 1111(b)(2) to permit a State to determine schools in need of improvement on the basis of not making AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years. This flexibility stems from other provisions in the statute that treat reading and mathematics independently (e.g., separate starting points and annual measurable objectives). These provisions recognize that student achievement in reading and mathematics in a State may be starting at very different points and thus the State would need to establish different trajectories to attain 100 percent proficiency. Concomitantly, it makes sense to permit a State to identify schools in need of improvement based on not making AYP for two years in the same subject. Subgroups, on the other hand, are not treated differently in the statute and thus the statute does not support similar flexibility to identify schools in need of improvement on the basis of "same subgroup" performance for two consecutive years. Moreover, this is inconsistent with the statute's accountability provisions in section 1111(b)(2)(C), which require that each subgroup meet the State's annual objectives in each subject each year. The intent of school identification is not to lay blame on a particular group of students, as the "same subgroup/same subject" proposal would do, but to identify the instructional and academic areas that need to be improved. A school that is identified for improvement should look to specific instructional remedies in the subject area, other indicator, or participation rate that resulted in its identification.

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans


 
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Last Modified: 06/28/2007