July 8, 2004
Honorable Thomas M. Jackson, Jr.
Virginia Board of Education
P.O. Box 2120
Richmond, Virginia 23218-2120
Dear President Jackson:
I am writing in response to Virginia'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 Virginia submitted to the Department on June 9, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to fully approve Virginia's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, Virginia makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Virginia 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 Virginia's accountability plan is not also an approval of Virginia's standards and assessment system. As Virginia makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Virginia 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 Virginia'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 Virginia'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 Virginia 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 Virginia in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Mark R. Warner
Amendments to the Virginia Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Virginia Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html
Multiple other academic indicators (Elements 1.2, 1.5, 3.2, 3.2b, 4.1, 5.2, 6.1, 7.2 and 8.1)
Revision: Virginia districts will select an additional academic indicator for schools for each school year for use in AYP calculations.
Assessment and Accountability for LEP students (Elements 2.1 and 5.2)
Revision: Virginia 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.
Multiple test administrations (Element 3.2)
Revision: Virginia will include only students' scores from the first official administration or those taken prior to that time in determining AYP.
Other academic indicator targets (Elements 3.2b and 5.2)
Revision: Virginia will use an attendance rate target of 94 percent and a performance target of 70 percent for its science assessment.
Appeals (Element 9.2)
Revision: Virginia will require appeals of school improvement designations to go through division approval before being considered by the State.
Participation Rate (Element 10.1)
Revision: Virginia will adopt the new flexibility regarding students who have medical emergencies during the testing window and its affect on a school's participation rate. Virginia will also adopt the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate.