District AYP and Identification for Improvement Must be Based on All Schools in a District
October 6, 2004
Honorable Sue Ellen Reed
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Indiana Department of Education
Room 229, State House
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2798
Dear Superintendent Reed:
I am writing to provide the Department's interpretation of several statutory provisions that govern a State's identification of school districts for improvement under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This interpretation follows several conversations with your staff regarding Indiana's sole and improper reliance on section 1116(c)(1)(A) of Title I, under which Indiana identified school districts for improvement only on the basis of students in Title I schools.
District accountability is governed by several sections of Title I that must be read together. Most significantly, section 1111(b)(2) establishes the fundamental requirements for State accountability. It requires each State to implement a single, statewide accountability system to ensure that all school districts and public schools make adequate yearly progress (AYP). Each State's accountability system must be the same for all school districts in the State, except districts that do not receive Title I funds are not subject to the requirements of section 1116. A State must define what constitutes AYP for all its public schools and school districts toward enabling all public school students to meet the State's academic achievement standards. It is clear from these provisions that the statute intends a State to hold all districts and all public schools accountable.
The concept of accountability for all schools is corroborated by the provision in section 1116 concerning district improvement. Section 1116(c)(3) governs identification of school districts for improvement and requires a State to identify any district that fails to make AYP as defined in the State's plan under 1111(b)(2) for two consecutive years. As noted above, a State's definition of AYP under section 1111(b)(2) must include all public schools.
This conclusion is supported by the legislative history of section 1116(c)(3). The Senate bill included language in this section, similar to section 1116(c)(1)(A), that referred to "schools served under this part [Title I, Part A]"; the House bill, on the other hand, did not limit identification for improvement to just Title I schools. During the House-Senate conference on NCLB, the Senate receded to the House, and thus the final statutory language does not refer to identifying districts for improvement on the basis of students in just Title I schools. This legislative history reinforces the overall intent of NCLB to hold a district accountable for the progress of all its schools.
We believe section 1116(c)(1)(A), which contains language virtually identical to that in the predecessor provision under the Improving America's Schools Act, is an anomaly, most likely because it was carried over from the prior law without corresponding changes to reflect the new emphasis in NCLB that holds districts accountable for students in all schools. However, Section 1116(c)(1)(A) must be read in conjunction with the other provisions that govern the determination of AYP and the identification of districts for improvement. When it is, it is clear that district AYP and identification for improvement must be based on all schools in a district, and not on just those schools in the district that receive Title I funds.
In sum, taking into consideration all relevant provisions that govern identifying school districts for improvement, we believe NCLB requires a State to consider the progress of students in all schools in a district. We appreciate your cooperation in changing your practice for the future and hope you find this information helpful in ensuring that no child is left behind.