March 4, 2004
Honorable David Stewart
State Superintendent of Schools
West Virginia Department of Education
Building 6, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305-0330
Dear Superintendent Stewart:
I am writing to follow up on your letter of January 22nd in which you submitted several amendments to the West Virginia accountability plan.
Based on previous correspondence, West Virginia indicated in this letter that it would identify schools for improvement on the basis of not making AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years. Please update your accountability plan with this amendment and submit it to your state contact (Grace Ross) so that the most up-to-date plan is available and on the Department's website.
West Virginia also requested two additional amendments. First, West Virginia has indicated that it wishes to offer supplemental educational services to “non-proficient disadvantaged students” in those schools first identified for improvement instead of offering choice to all students in the school. We cannot approve this change. The statute clearly indicates that choice must be offered to all students in schools when first identified for improvement.
The recently updated Public School Choice non-regulatory guidance provides information about how a local educational agency (LEA) could offer both choice and supplemental educational services to students enrolled schools in its first year of school improvement (http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/schoolchoiceguid.doc). An LEA may give students enrolled in schools in their first year of improvement the opportunity to obtain supplemental educational services, so long as they also offer those students the opportunity to change schools. However, because the law requires the provision of choice (but not supplemental educational services) to these students, all students who want to change schools must be able to do so, and their transportation needs must be met (subject to the 20 percent limit) before any of these students are given supplemental educational services. LEAs that offer parents of those students the option of having their child change schools or receive supplemental educational services must make it clear to the parents that, depending on the demand for choice (and the cost of transporting students to their new schools), supplemental services might or might not be provided.
In addition, if an LEA has both schools in their first year of improvement and schools in their second year of improvement or undergoing corrective action or restructuring, it must give priority for supplemental educational services to students enrolled in the schools in their second year of improvement or in corrective action or restructuring (the students who, under the statute, are entitled to be given the opportunity to receive those services).
Second, West Virginia has indicated it plans to develop an equivalent form of the WESTEST that is aligned to grade level standards for students with cognitive impairments. My staff initiated further conversations with your staff on this matter as there are several issues to consider with such an approach. This approach would be in alignment with the statute and regulations if the "equivalent" assessment is aligned to grade level achievement standards and content standards. In such an instance, there would be no limit on the number of proficient scores that could be included in AYP assessments. We want to work with West Virginia on this approach to ensure that these efforts are successful.
Thank you for your continuing efforts at improving student achievement. I look forward to working with you to implement these accountability provisions and support you in your efforts to ensure that all students reach the grade level standards you have set for them.
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education