Administrators LEAD & MANAGE MY SCHOOL
Decision Letter on Request to Amend Vermont Accountability Plan

July 27, 2006

The Honorable Richard H. Cate
Commissioner
Vermont Department of Education
120 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2501

Dear Commissioner Cate:

I am writing in response to Vermont'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 requested changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Vermont submitted to the Department on July 25th, 2006. The revised and fully approved plan will be posted on the Department's website. A summary of the approved amendment is enclosed with this letter.

As you know, any additional requests to amend the Vermont accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Please note that approval of Vermont's accountability plan does not constitute approval of the State's standards and assessment system.

Please also be aware that approval of Vermont's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendment 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 Vermont's efforts to raise the achievement of all students and hold all schools accountable. I wish you continued success in your school improvement efforts. If you need any additional assistance in your efforts to implement the standards, assessments, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Freeman (catherine.freeman@ed.gov) or Valeria Ford (a href="mailto:valeria.ford@ed.gov">valeria.ford@ed.gov) of my staff.

Sincerely,

Henry L. Johnson

Enclosure

Governor Jim Douglas
Gail Taylor


Amendments to the Vermont Accountability Plan

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

Accountability system includes all schools and districts in the state and holds all schools to the same criteria (Elements 1.1 and 1.2)

Revision: In September 2004, revised Rules for Vermont's School Accountability System Based on Student Achievement took effect, replacing the rules adopted in July 2000. A copy of the rules is attached.

With the implementation of NECAP testing, Vermont no longer uses the Small Schools Review described in the 2003 Workbook. Instead, the State will make adequate yearly progress (AYP) decisions for all schools for the All Student Group, regardless of the "n" size, using the indexes. Vermont will apply a minimum 'n' of 40 or more students for subgroup decisions for one year of results (no longer combining two years of results into a rolling average) and continue to use a confidence interval of .01.

Accountability system incorporates the academic achievement standards (Element 1.3)

Revision: For the new NECAP tests, Vermont has adopted four performance levels (with corresponding index values) ? proficient with distinction (500 points), proficient (500 points), partially proficient (375 points), and substantially below proficient (250 and 125 points based on scale scores within that achievement level). Vermont must report percent proficient regardless of whether the index scores are reported.

Accountability system provides information in a timely manner (Element 1.4)

Revision: As indicated above, the new NECAP assessments in grades 3-8 are given in the fall, with results available in late winter/early spring. This will become the case for high schools with the fall 2007 tests.

AYP decisions for 9-12 high schools will be made as soon after receiving and verifying spring 2006 NSRE results as possible - most likely October 2006. These decisions will apply to SY06-07. In spring 2007, when we make AYP decisions to apply to SY07-08, decisions for 9-12 high schools will be based only on the academic indicator (graduation rate) for this one-time transitional decision. In spring 2008, results from NECAP 2007 fall testing at grades 3-8 and grade 11 will determine school status for SY08-09.

Accountability system includes rewards and sanctions (Element 1.6)

Revision: Since the criteria for Academic Achievement Recognition (AAR) must be based on AYP results, schools that meet the criteria for receiving AAR will have that status published on their AYP report and information about these schools will be released as part of the AYP press release.

Accountability system has a consistent definition of full academic year (Elements 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3)

Revision: Vermont has adopted a new definition for "full academic year" because the State is tracking students through its fall and spring data collections. The new definition holds schools accountable for those students who have been continuously enrolled from the first day of school to the last.

Accountability system expects all student subgroups, public schools, and local educational agencies (LEAs) to reach proficiency by 2013-2014 (Element 3.1)

Revision: With the adoption of NECAP tests in grades 3-8, Vermont no longer averages test results over two years; annual determinations are made with one year of results. In addition, adoption of the new tests no longer requires placing equal weight on basic and analytical reporting areas, as each new NECAP (reading, mathematics, and writing) test reports one overall score. Vermont will continue to index the 10th grade NSRE as it has in the past until the new high school NECAP tests are available.

AYP decisions for 9-12 high schools will be made as soon after receiving and verifying spring 2006 NSRE results as possible - most likely October 2006. These decisions will apply to SY06-07. In spring 2007, when Vermont makes AYP decisions to apply to SY07-08, decisions for 9-12 high schools will be based only on the academic indicator (graduation rate) for this one-time transitional decision. In spring 2008, results from NECAP 2007 fall testing at grades 3-8 and grade 11 will determine school status for SY08-09.

Accountability system establishes intermediate goals (Element 3.2)

Revision: Vermont has set new grade span annual measurable objectives (AMOs) using the original 20th percentile model. The State has adopted two grade spans AMOs for the spring 2006 AYP determinations ? grades 3-8 and 7-12. The AMOs for grades 9-12 will continue as before until new NECAP tests are introduced in school year 2007-2008.

Accountability system determines annually the progress of schools and districts (Element 4.1)

Revision: Through Act 64 of 2003 and Act 114 of 2004, the Vermont legislature authorized the Commissioner of Education to determine annually whether schools and LEAs are meeting State standards and making AYP through school year 2006. This authority is extended through school year 2008 pending legislative approval.

Accountability system includes limited English proficient (LEP) students (Element 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4)

Revision: To ensure reliable decisions, Vermont will apply AYP determinations only to subgroups with a minimum n-size of 40 or more students in each reporting area in one year and across all grade levels.

LEP students are included in the academic assessments following the flexibility provided by U.S. Department of Education. LEP students who have attended school in the United States for less than one year are not required to participate in Reading/English Language Arts assessments, but must participate in the mathematics and English language proficiency assessments. Vermont clarifies that it does not count fluent English proficient students in the LEP subgroup at this time.

Additional indicators are valid and reliable (Element 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3)

Revision: Vermont's updated calculation of graduation rate for high schools is a longitudinal cohort count and will allow for the disaggregation of subgroups, if needed, for safe harbor. Because this calculation counts transfers-in for the first time, the State has set the graduation rate at 72%. This change does not impact the number of schools that are below the threshold for not making AYP.

For the spring 2006 AYP decision, Vermont will use the achievement of students in the bottom performance level of the NECAP Reading test for all grades tested in a school as the "additional academic indicator" for AYP purposes. This aligns with the State's past use of the bottom two-achievement levels of the NSRE Reading Basic Understanding reporting area for schools that did not have grade 2 VT-DRA results. The criterion for identification remains unchanged at 15% or more of students in the lowest achievement level.

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Last Modified: 07/31/2006