June 4, 2007
Dr. Terry Bergeson
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Washington Department of Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
PO Box 47200
Olympia, Washington 98504
Dear Commissioner Bergeson:
I am writing in response to Washington'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, the approved changes are now included in an amended State accountability plan that Washington submitted to the Department on May 8, 2007. I am pleased to fully approve Washington's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of the amendments submitted for the 2006-2007 school year is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend the Washington accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I.
Please also be aware that approval of Washington'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.
I am confident that Washington will continue to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If you need any additional assistance in implementing the standards, assessment and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Martha Snyder (firstname.lastname@example.org) or David Harmon (email@example.com).
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
Acting Assistant Secretary
cc: Governor Chris Gregoire
Amendments to the Washington 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 Washington accountability plan.
The following amendment is aligned with the statute and regulations.
Calculating adequate yearly progress (Elements 3.2, 3.2a, and 4.1)
Revision: Assessments for grades 3-8 and 10 within a school will be combined for adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations using a proficiency index. A school with multiple grade-spans will receive a single AYP determination using the proficiency index. The index will be calculated through several steps: 1) determining the difference between percent proficient and the annual measurable objective (AMO) for each grade; 2) establishing a proficiency index weighting constant by dividing the number of students in a grade by the total number of students within the school; 3) calculating the difference between the percent proficient and the AMO multiplied by the proficiency index weighting constant. The proficiency index for the school is the sum of all individual grade-level proficiency index components. A proficiency index of zero or higher indicates that the AMO has been met by a subgroup in the school.
Within AYP calculations, the elementary school AMO applies to grades 3 through 5, the middle school AMO applies to grades 6 through 8, and the high school AMO applies to 10th grade.
The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and are therefore not approved.
Exemptions of limited English proficient (LEP) students (Element 5.4)
The Department cannot approve Washington's request to exempt LEP students in their first year of enrollment in U.S. schools from taking any assessment in which all test items require reading English. Nor can the Department approve Washington's request to not count results for accountability purposes of any assessment of LEP students (for up to three years) in which all test items require reading English, unless the student demonstrated at least intermediate proficiency in English.
The Department issued regulations in September 2006 that permit a State to exempt recently arrived LEP students (i.e., those who have been in schools in the U.S. for less than12 months)from one administration of the State's reading/language arts assessment. Those regulations, however, require a State to assess all LEP students in mathematics and to assess LEP students who have been enrolled in schools in the United States for more than 12 months in reading/language arts. The regulations also permit a State to exclude the scores of recently arrived LEP students in reading/language arts (if taken) and mathematics from one AYP determination. Washington's request exceeds the flexibility afforded by these regulations. The Department believes that assessing all students is important and beneficial as it provides useful information to teachers in order to inform instruction and to parents to let them know how their child is achieving. Additionally, Washington may permit any language translation or accommodation that may be necessary, so long as it does not invalidate the test result, but the students must be assessed.
Same subgroup/same subject identification for AYP (Element 9.1)
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.