August 7, 2006
The Honorable Linda McCulloch
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Montana Office of Public Instruction
1227 11th Avenue
Helena, Montana 59620-2501
Dear Superintendent McCulloch:
We are writing in response to your March 31, 2006, request for a two-year exception to the 1.0 percent statewide cap on the number of proficient and advanced scores from alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards that can be included in adequate yearly progress (AYP) decisions. We appreciate your staff's willingness to provide additional information to us and to speak with us about this request. Based on all the information provided by Montana, we are approving your request to extend the flexibility to allow every small district in the State (districts with fewer than 200 students in tested grades) to count up to two proficient scores based on alternate achievement standards when calculating AYP. This exception is granted for two years to cover AYP determinations based on assessments administered in the 2005–06 and 2006–07 school years.
We are granting your request for an exception based on Montana's extraordinary rural nature. If a 1.0 percent limitation were applied to every district, 84 percent of the districts in your State would not be able to count the score of a single student as proficient on the Montana Criterion-Referenced Test-Alternate (CRT-Alt) when calculating AYP. In addition, Montana has a large number of very small districts, which could make a State-managed exceptions process for these districts administratively complicated. Based on data from the 2003–04 and 2004–05 school years, we know that 41 and 53 districts, respectively, with fewer than 200 students were able to take advantage of this exception. Statewide, however, the percentage of students scoring proficient on the CRT-Alt did not exceed 1.0 percent in either year.
The exception is intended to address the unique nature of Montana's rural districts, and is not an exception based on a higher incidence rate of students statewide. If you believe that your State has a higher incidence of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, you may apply for an exception on that basis under the terms of 34 CFR §200.13(c)(2).
Districts that are eligible for this exception (i.e., the small districts) would be able to count in calculating AYP up to two proficient scores from an alternate assessment aligned with alternate achievement standards, but only if there are students in those districts with the most significant cognitive disabilities who actually score proficient on the alternate assessment.
Districts with more than 200 students in the tested grades (i.e., the large districts) would be held to an overall 1.0 percent cap on the number of proficient scores of students who take an alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards that may be included in calculating AYP, unless the following situation occurs. If the State as a whole has less than 1.0 percent of students in the grades assessed scoring proficient on an alternate assessment aligned with alternate achievement standards, the State may grant exceptions under 34 C.F.R. §200.13(c)(3) to districts that need them, up to the point where the total of proficient scores on an alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards is equal to 1.0 percent of the number of students in the grades assessed Statewide.
We encourage Montana to work with the Department to develop assessments that will measure student achievement for all students in valid and reliable ways. Montana has shown a commitment to raising standards for students with disabilities and to improve its assessment system. We wish you success in your efforts to ensure that all your students are held to high standards of student achievement.
We appreciate Montana's efforts to hold all schools accountable and to develop assessments that will measure academic achievement for all students in valid and reliable ways. We wish you continued success in your school improvement efforts.
|Henry L. Johnson||John H. Hager|
cc: Nancy Coopersmith