FR Doc E7-13229
[Federal Register: July 9, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 130)]
[Notices]               
[Page 37212-37216]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr09jy07-52]                                       

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
Technical Assistance on Data Collection--General Supervision 
Enhancement Grants

AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 
Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final priorities.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services announces three separate funding priorities 
under the Technical Assistance on State Data Collection program 
authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
(IDEA). The Assistant Secretary may use the priorities for competitions 
in fiscal year (FY) 2007 and later years. We take this action to focus 
attention on an identified national need to provide technical 
assistance to improve the capacity of States to meet data collection 
requirements.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This priority is effective August 8, 2007.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry Wexler, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 4053, Potomac Center Plaza, 
Washington, DC 20202-2700. Telephone: (202) 245-7571 or via Internet: 
larry.wexler@ed.gov.

    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the Technical Assistance on State Data 
Collection program established under section 616(i)(2) of the IDEA, we 
make awards to provide technical assistance to improve the capacity of 
States to meet the section 616 data collection requirements.
    We published a notice of proposed priorities (NPP) for this program 
in the Federal Register on March 30, 2007 (72 FR 15126). This notice of 
final priorities contains four changes from the NPP. We fully explain 
the changes in the Analysis of Comments and Changes section that 
follows.

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    In response to the Secretary's invitation in the NPP, four parties 
submitted comments on the proposed priorities. An analysis of the 
comments and the changes we have made follows.

[[Page 37213]]

We group major issues according to subject. Generally, we do not 
address technical and other minor and suggested changes that we are not 
allowed to make under the applicable statutory authority.

Priority A--Modified Academic Achievement Standards and Priority B--
Alternate Academic Achievement Standards Comment

    Two commenters requested that Priorities A and B require the use of 
universal design principles in developing alternate assessments based 
on modified academic achievement standards and alternate assessments 
based on alternate academic achievement standards.
    Discussion: 34 CFR 300.160(g) of the IDEA regulations already 
requires State educational agencies (SEAs) (or, in the case of a 
district-wide assessment, local educational agencies (LEAs)), to use 
universal design principles in developing and administering alternate 
assessments for children with disabilities, to the extent possible. To 
require the use of universal design principles in developing alternate 
assessments under this priority, without consideration for the 
feasibility, appropriateness, or practicality of their use, would be 
inappropriate.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that training on universal 
design principles be included in the training on modified academic 
achievement standards for individualized education program teams (IEP 
Teams) required in Priority A.
    Discussion: The training required under Priority A focuses on 
training IEP Teams to use State guidelines to determine the students to 
be assessed based on modified academic achievement standards. 
Determining whether universal design principles should be used in 
developing and implementing alternate assessments is not a 
responsibility of IEP Teams. Therefore, we believe it would be 
inappropriate to include training on universal design for IEP Teams, as 
recommended by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that projects funded under Priorities 
A and B should work with an expert who has skills in applying 
principles of universal design to large-scale assessments, in order to 
ensure that alternate assessments are, to the extent possible, 
universally designed.
    Discussion: We agree that an expert with experience in applying 
universal design principles to large-scale assessments would help 
ensure that alternate assessments, to the extent possible, are 
universally designed; we will change the list of expert skills in 
Priorities A and B accordingly.
    Changes: We have added, ``applying the principles of universal 
design to large-scale assessments'' to the list of expert skills in 
Priorities A and B.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that Priorities A and B 
emphasize placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE) because 
children with Down syndrome, and many other children taking alternate 
assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards, are not 
provided opportunities to be educated in the LRE with their nondisabled 
peers.
    Discussion: We believe it is unnecessary to include the additional 
language recommended by the commenter. The regulations on alternate 
academic achievement standards 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), already require that alternate academic 
achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive 
disabilities developed by a State promote access to the general 
curriculum (Sec.  200.1(d)(2)). Similarly, Sec.  200.1(f)(2)(iii) of 
the ESEA regulations requires students who are assessed based on 
modified academic achievement standards to have access to the 
curriculum, including instruction, for the grade in which the students 
are enrolled. In addition, Sec.  300.114(a)(2) of the IDEA regulations 
requires children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled 
children, to the maximum extent appropriate.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that an allowable activity under 
Priority B should be the development of clear and appropriate 
guidelines for IEP Teams to use in determining students to be assessed 
based on alternate academic achievement standards. Another commenter 
recommended that development and implementation of training for IEP 
Teams on these State guidelines should be allowable activities under 
Priority B.
    Discussion: We agree that Priority B should support the development 
of clear and appropriate guidelines for IEP Teams to apply in 
determining students with the most significant cognitive disabilities 
who should take an alternate assessment based on alternate academic 
achievement standards, consistent with Sec.  200.1(f)(1)(i)(A) of the 
ESEA regulations. We also agree that training for IEP Teams on these 
guidelines is important to ensure that the guidelines are correctly 
implemented.
    Change: Priority B has been revised to include two additional 
allowable activities: (1) The development of clear and appropriate 
guidelines for IEP Teams to use in determining when a child's 
significant cognitive disability justifies assessment based on 
alternate academic achievement standards; and (2) the development and 
implementation of training on guidelines for IEP Teams to use in 
determining which students should be assessed based on alternate 
academic achievement standards.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Secretary provide funds 
to assist States with developing and implementing alternate assessments 
based on grade-level academic achievement standards.
    Discussion: Given the limited availability of funds, we believe 
that focusing Priorities A and B on alternate assessments based on 
alternate academic achievement standards and alternate assessments 
based on modified academic achievement standards will address the needs 
of the majority of States. Evidence provided by the Office of 
Elementary and Secondary Education's peer review of Statewide 
assessment systems is clear that many States need support to improve 
their alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement 
standards. Additionally, States overwhelmingly expressed the need for 
funds to support the development of alternate assessments based on 
modified academic achievement standards when the regulations permitting 
States to develop modified academic achievement standards were 
published on April 9, 2007. We have not received similar requests for 
funds to support the development of alternate assessments based on 
grade-level academic achievement standards.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that Priorities A and B require 
applicants to collect data on the characteristics of students who take 
an alternate assessment based on alternate or modified academic 
achievement standards, such as the disability category and minority 
status of students, and whether students are economically disadvantaged 
or have limited proficiency in English. The commenter also recommended 
requiring data to be collected on instructional variables, such as 
students' educational placements, the accommodations they received, and 
whether instruction was provided by highly qualified teachers.
    Discussion: We believe that implementing the commenter's 
recommendations would require

[[Page 37214]]

significant resources and time and be a burden for States to report and 
would not necessarily improve the use of funds under this program. 
Therefore, we decline to make the changes requested by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that Priorities A and B require 
applicants to report the percentage of students with disabilities 
taking either of the alternate assessments and the percentage of those 
students whose advanced or proficient scores on those alternate 
assessments are counted as proficient in calculating adequate yearly 
progress (AYP).
    Discussion: The information regarding participation requested by 
the commenter is already required under the ESEA and the IDEA. Section 
200.6(a)(4) of the ESEA regulations requires States and LEAs to report 
on the number and percentage of students taking an alternate assessment 
based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards. 
Likewise, Sec.  300.160(f) of the IDEA regulations requires States to 
report on the number of students with disabilities participating in 
alternate assessments based on alternate or modified academic 
achievement standards.
    Neither the regulations under Title I of the ESEA nor the 
regulations under Part B of the IDEA require reporting of the 
percentage of advanced or proficient scores on alternate assessments 
based on alternate and modified academic achievement standards that are 
used in calculating AYP, and we do not believe it would be useful or 
appropriate to impose such a requirement only on grantees under 
Priorities A and B. As noted previously, these priorities are being 
established under section 616(i)(2) of the IDEA to improve the capacity 
of States to meet the section 616 data collection requirements. The 
information requested is not a part of the section 616 data collection 
requirements.
    Changes: None.

Priority C--Outcome Measures

    Comment: One commenter stated that an allowable activity under 
Priority C should include comparing outcomes of children with 
disabilities participating in regular preschool programs (defined as a 
program that has a natural proportion of disabled and non disabled 
children) with outcomes of children in special education preschool 
programs.
    Discussion: The purpose of this priority is to improve the capacity 
of States to meet the section 616 data collection requirements under 
the IDEA. The activity recommended by the commenter extends beyond this 
purpose. Therefore, we decline to make the commenter's recommended 
change.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: None.
    Discussion: The NPP inadvertently included a requirement that 
projects funded under Priority C provide an assurance from the State's 
Assessment Office that it was given an opportunity to contribute to the 
formulation of the application. Because Priority C does not involve 
information related to assessments, this requirement was misplaced.
    Changes: The requirement that projects funded under Priority C 
provide an assurance from the State's Assessment Office that it was 
given an opportunity to contribute to the formulation of the 
application has been removed.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use one of these priorities, we invite 
applications through a notice in the Federal Register. When inviting 
applications, we designate the priority as absolute, competitive 
preference, or invitational. The effect of each type of priority 
follows:
    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority, we consider only 
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference 
priority, we give competitive preference to an application by either 
(1) Awarding additional points, depending on how well, or the extent 
to which, the application meets the competitive preference priority 
(34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2) selecting an application that meets 
the competitive preference priority over an application of 
comparable merit that does not meet the priority (34 CFR 
75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority, we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the invitational 
priority. However, we do not give an application that meets the 
invitational priority a competitive or absolute preference over 
other applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).


    Note: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services is establishing three separate funding 
priorities addressing data collected under the IDEA. Although these 
are being announced in one notice, these priorities will be funded 
through separate competitions. Eligible entities must submit 
separate applications under each of the priorities for which they 
wish to apply.

Priorities

Background of Priority A--Modified Academic Achievement Standards

    On April 9, 2007, the Secretary amended the regulations governing 
programs administered under Title I of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB, 
and the regulations governing programs under Part B of the IDEA. These 
regulations provide States with additional flexibility regarding State, 
LEA, and school accountability for the achievement of a small group of 
students with disabilities whose progress is such that, even after 
receiving appropriate instruction, including special education and 
related services designed to address the students' individual needs, 
the students' IEP Teams are reasonably certain that the students will 
not achieve grade-level proficiency within the year covered by the 
students' IEPs. These regulations became effective May 9, 2007.
    The regulations permit States to develop modified academic 
achievement standards (and assessments that measure achievement based 
on those standards) that are aligned with grade-level content 
standards. States and LEAs are permitted to include the proficient and 
advanced scores from assessments based on modified academic achievement 
standards in AYP determinations, subject to a cap of 2.0 percent at the 
district and State levels based on the total number of students in the 
grades assessed.
    The Secretary anticipates that many States will need support in 
developing, enhancing, or redesigning their assessment systems to 
include assessments that are aligned with modified academic achievement 
standards.

Priority A--Modified Academic Achievement Standards

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services establishes a priority for grants to support States with one 
or more of the following activities: (1) Development of modified 
academic achievement standards based on the State's academic content 
standards for the grade in which a student is enrolled; (2) development 
of State assessments using universal design principles, to the extent 
possible, based on modified academic achievement standards; and (3) 
development of clear and appropriate guidelines for IEP Teams to use in 
determining which students should be assessed based on modified 
academic achievement standards, and the development and implementation 
of training on those guidelines for IEP Teams.
    Assessments based on modified academic achievement standards must 
be designed to generate valid scores that can be used for AYP 
accountability purposes under the ESEA. The scores of students with 
disabilities participating in alternate assessments based on modified 
academic achievement

[[Page 37215]]

standards also will be reflected in the data required by the Part B 
State Performance Plans and Annual Performance Reports on the 
performance and participation of children with disabilities on State 
assessments under section 616 of the IDEA.
    Applicants must include information in their applications on how 
they will work with experts in large-scale assessment and special 
education to ensure that they are designing modified academic 
achievement standards, and assessments based on those standards, that: 
(1) Address the needs of students with disabilities; (2) validly, 
reliably, and accurately measure student performance; and (3) result in 
high quality data for use in evaluating the performance of schools, 
districts, and States. The experts selected should represent the range 
of skills needed to develop assessments based on modified academic 
achievement standards for students with disabilities that will meet the 
peer review guidelines for assessments published by the Department in 
the spring of 2004 that are available at 
http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/saaprguidance.pdf.
 Skill sets for experts must include 
experience with one or more of the following: (1) Large scale 
assessment; (2) standards-setting techniques; (3) assessment and 
measurement of children with disabilities; (4) accommodations and 
supports to assess grade-level content; (5) working with States to 
develop assessments; (6) development of criterion referenced tests and 
instruments; (7) psychometric evaluation; (8) conducting studies of the 
technical adequacy of assessment instruments; (9) research and 
publishing in the area of assessment and psychometrics; and (10) 
applying the principles of universal design to large-scale assessments.
    Projects funded under this priority also must--
    (a) Budget to attend a three-day Project Directors' meeting in 
Washington, DC;
    (b) If the project maintains a Web site, include relevant 
information and documents in a format that meets a government or 
industry-recognized standard for accessibility; and
    (c) Provide a written assurance that the State's Assessment Office 
(i.e., the office that addresses accountability under Title I of the 
ESEA) was given the opportunity to contribute to the formulation of the 
application.

Background of Priority B--Alternate Academic Achievement Standards

    The Department's Title I regulations in 34 CFR part 200, regarding 
children with the most significant cognitive disabilities, permit a 
State to develop alternate academic achievement standards for students 
with the most significant cognitive disabilities and to include those 
students' proficient and advanced scores on alternate assessments based 
on alternate academic achievement standards in measuring AYP at the 
State and district levels, subject to a cap of 1.0 percent of the total 
number of students in the grades assessed. Alternate assessments based 
on alternate academic achievement standards, as permitted by the Title 
I regulations, also are recognized as an appropriate assessment method 
in section 612(a)(16) of the IDEA.
    Alternate assessments that are used by States and LEAs under the 
ESEA, as amended by NCLB, must be designed to generate valid data that 
can be used for purposes of determining AYP. Alternate assessments also 
must meet the requirements in 34 CFR 200.2 (State Responsibilities for 
Assessment) and 34 CFR 200.3 (Designing State Academic Assessment 
Systems), including the requirements relating to validity, reliability, 
and high technical quality; and fit coherently in the State's overall 
assessment system under 34 CFR 200.2. The alternate assessment must, 
among other things, be: (1) Valid and reliable for the purposes for 
which the assessment system is used; (2) consistent with relevant, 
nationally-recognized professional and technical standards; and (3) 
supported by evidence from test publishers or other relevant sources 
that the assessment system is of adequate technical quality for each 
purpose required under the ESEA, as amended by NCLB. States must 
include alternate assessment data in their State Performance Plan and 
Annual Performance Reports relative to performance and participation of 
children with disabilities on State assessments under the IDEA.
    The Department is establishing the following priority because many 
States need assistance in: (1) Developing alternate academic 
achievement standards aligned with the State's academic content 
standards; (2) developing high-quality alternate assessments that 
measure the achievement of students with the most significant cognitive 
disabilities based on those standards; (3) reporting on the 
participation and performance of students with disabilities on 
alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement 
standards; and (4) developing clear and appropriate guidelines for IEP 
Teams to use in determining which students should be assessed based on 
alternate academic achievement standards, and the development and 
implementation of training on those guidelines.

Priority B--Alternate Academic Achievement Standards

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services establishes a priority for grants to support States with one 
or more of the following activities: (1) Development of alternate 
academic achievement standards aligned with the State's academic 
content standards; (2) development of high-quality alternate 
assessments using universal design principles, to the extent possible, 
that measure the achievement of students with the most significant 
cognitive disabilities based on those standards; (3) reporting on the 
participation and performance of students with disabilities on 
alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement 
standards; and (4) development of clear and appropriate guidelines for 
IEP Teams to use in determining which students should be assessed based 
on alternate academic achievement standards, and the development and 
implementation of training on those guidelines for IEP Teams.
    Applicants must include information in their applications on how 
they will work with experts in large-scale assessment and special 
education to ensure that they are designing alternate academic 
achievement standards, and assessments based on those standards, that: 
(1) Address the needs of students with the most significant cognitive 
disabilities; (2) validly, reliably, and accurately measure student 
performance; and (3) result in high quality data for use in evaluating 
the performance of schools, districts, and States. The experts selected 
should represent the range of skills needed to develop assessments 
based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the 
most significant cognitive disabilities that will meet the peer review 
guidelines for assessments published by the Department in the spring of 
2004 that are available at http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/saaprguidance.pdf.
 Skill sets for experts must include experience with 
one or more of the following: (1) Large scale assessment; (2) 
standards-setting techniques; (3) assessment and measurement of 
children with

[[Page 37216]]

disabilities; (4) accommodations and supports to assess grade-level 
content; (5) working with States to develop assessments; (6) 
development of criterion-referenced tests and instruments; (7) 
psychometric evaluation; (8) conducting studies of the technical 
adequacy of assessment instruments; (9) research and publishing in the 
area of assessment and psychometrics; and (10) applying the principles 
of universal design to large-scale assessments.
    Projects funded under this priority also must--
    (a) Budget to attend a three-day Project Directors' meeting in 
Washington, DC;
    (b) If the project maintains a Web site, include relevant 
information and documents in a format that meets a government or 
industry-recognized standard for accessibility; and
    (c) Provide a written assurance that the State's Assessment Office 
(i.e., the office that addresses accountability under Title I of the 
ESEA) was given the opportunity to contribute to the formulation of the 
application.

Background of Proposed Priority C--Outcome Measures

    The cornerstone of any accountability system is the development of 
outcome indicators against which progress can be measured. State 
performance reports, self-assessments, and other extant data show that 
most States and Lead Agencies, as defined under Part C of the IDEA 
(section 635(a)(10)), as well as their LEAs and Early Intervention 
Service programs, do not have well developed systems for measuring the 
progress of infants, toddlers, and young children with disabilities and 
their families served under Part B and Part C of the IDEA or methods to 
collect and analyze Part B and Part C outcome indicator data. 
Therefore, most States lack the capacity to collect sufficient data to 
determine the impact of early intervention and special education 
services for these children.

Priority C--Outcome Measures

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services establishes a priority for projects that address the needs of 
States for technical assistance to improve their capacity to meet 
Federal data collection requirements in one or both of two focus areas.
    Focus Area One. Focus Area One supports the development or 
enhancement of Part B State systems for collecting, analyzing, and 
reporting preschool outcome indicator data. Projects funded under Focus 
Area One must focus on improving the capacity of the State to provide 
information that could be used to determine the following:
    (a) The outcomes associated with preschool children with 
disabilities participating in State Part B programs.
    (b) If the State has standards for preschool disability outcomes, 
whether preschool children with disabilities are meeting those 
standards.
    (c) Trend data on outcomes associated with preschool children with 
disabilities and the extent to which preschool children with 
disabilities are meeting State standards.
    Focus Area Two. Focus Area Two supports the development or 
enhancement of Part C systems for collecting, analyzing, and reporting 
outcome indicator data. Projects funded under Focus Area Two must focus 
on improving the capacity of the State to provide information that 
could be used to determine the following:
    (a) The outcomes associated with infants and toddlers with 
disabilities and their families participating in State Part C programs.
    (b) If the State has standards for early intervention outcomes, 
whether infants and toddlers with disabilities are meeting those 
standards.
    (c) Trend data on outcomes associated with infants and toddlers 
with disabilities and their families and the extent to which infants 
and toddlers with disabilities are meeting State standards.
    Projects funded under this priority also must--
    (a) Budget to attend a three-day Project Directors' meeting in 
Washington, DC; and
    (b) If the project maintains a Web site, include relevant 
information and documents in a format that meets a government or 
industry-recognized standard for accessibility.

Executive Order 12866

    This notice of final priorities has been reviewed in accordance 
with Executive Order 12866. Under the terms of the order, we have 
assessed the potential costs and benefits of this regulatory action.
    The potential costs associated with this regulatory action are 
those resulting from statutory requirements and those we have 
determined as necessary for administering this program effectively and 
efficiently.
    In assessing the potential costs and benefits--both quantitative 
and qualitative--of this regulatory action, we have determined that the 
benefits of the regulatory action justify the costs.
    We also have determined that this regulatory action does not unduly 
interfere with State, local, and tribal governments in the exercise of 
their governmental functions.

Intergovernmental Review

    This program is subject to Executive Order 12372 and the 
regulations in 34 CFR part 79. One of the objectives of the Executive 
Order is to foster an intergovernmental partnership and a strengthened 
federalism. The Executive Order relies on processes developed by State 
and local governments for coordination and review of Federal financial 
assistance.
    This document provides early notification of our specific plans and 
actions for this program.

Electronic Access to This Document

    You may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe 
Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site: 
http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister.

    To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available 
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. 
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    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the 
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal 
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: 
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/index.htm.


(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.373X Technical 
Assistance on Data Collection--General Supervision Enhancement 
Grants)

    Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1411(c) and 1416(i)(2).

    Dated: July 3, 2007.
Jennifer Sheehy,
Director of Policy and Planning for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services.
 [FR Doc. E7-13229 Filed 7-6-07; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4000-01-P