July 25, 2006
Ms. Carol Comeau
Anchorage School District
P.O. Box 196614
Anchorage, AK 99519
Dear Ms. Comeau:
I am writing with regard to a flexibility agreement on behalf of the Anchorage School District (ASD) to provide supplemental educational services (SES) 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). This agreement would allow ASD to be eligible to provide SES to eligible students in Title I schools under section 1116(e) of Title I, even though the district has been identified for improvement under section 1116(c) and thus, under the Department's regulations (34 C.F.R. §200.47(b)(1)(iv)(B)), in the absence of a flexibility agreement, is ineligible to provide SES this school year.
SES is an important component of NCLB, giving low-income families real options to obtain free tutoring and other academic enrichment services for their children. This extra help for students who attend schools in need of improvement is a key element of school improvement efforts and efforts to increase student achievement. We have learned valuable lessons about SES in these first few years of implementation. Creating and implementing a successful SES program requires coordination and cooperation by States, school districts, providers, and parents.
Unfortunately, not enough eligible students are receiving SES. Through our monitoring and evaluation work, we have learned that, in 2003-04, only 17 percent of eligible students participated in SES. In an effort to boost student participation rates and increase the quality of SES being offered to students, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) began a pilot last year that gave Boston Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools the opportunity to provide SES to eligible students in Title I schools even though both districts were identified for improvement. We would like to expand this pilot in the 2006-07 school year to continue to address two key priorities: (1) ensure that more students are receiving SES, and (2) ensure that we are able to obtain quality information on how SES programs are improving the academic achievement of students receiving services. I hope to gain valuable information about SES from these pilot sites – information that can be shared with other States, districts, and the Congress to help them improve the quality of these services.
I, therefore, am approving a flexibility agreement for ASD under section 9401 of the ESEA for the 2006-07 school year as part of the Department's SES pilot. This agreement permits ASD to be eligible to be a provider of SES to eligible students in Title I schools even though the district has been identified for improvement. ASD will still need to become an approved provider through Alaska's normal approval process. My approval of this flexibility agreement is also conditioned on ASD's fulfilling the conditions detailed in the enclosure. One of the conditions of this agreement stipulates that our Department will conduct a third-party evaluation of SES in ASD during the 2006-07 school year. We will need ASD to supply our evaluator with student achievement data files and other information necessary to conduct an evaluation of the achievement gains of students participating in SES in ASD.
In addition, as required by section 9401(b)(3)(B) of the ESEA, within 30 days of the date of this letter, ASD must provide notice and information to the public about its participation in the pilot in the manner in which it customarily provides similar notice to the public. ASD must also submit a report under section 9401(e)(1) of the ESEA to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development at the end of the 2006-07 school year that describes the district's provision of SES in Title I schools; describes how those schools continued to provide Title I services to eligible students; and evaluates the progress of the district and schools in improving the quality of instruction and the academic achievement of students. The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development must then submit a report to the Department based on ASD's report.
This flexibility agreement will serve several important goals: increasing the numbers of students receiving SES; ensuring early notice about SES through multiple venues and extended enrollment windows; allowing external organizations reasonable access to school facilities; and providing information on the academic achievement of students receiving SES. Making this SES pilot program a success for all involved, particularly the children receiving the services, will provide the Department with important information that will help to ensure the successful implementation of SES in future years. We hope that ASD will become a model of high-quality implementation of SES. To that end, the Department would like to work in partnership with ASD throughout this year as it implements SES, and we ask ASD to share with the Department examples of those practices and strategies that are effective and information on why. The Department would like to learn from the experiences of ASD and disseminate that information to other districts around the country.
This flexibility agreement applies to the provision of SES in Title I schools in Anchorage during the 2006-07 school year and is subject to an annual review at the end of the school year.
SES is an important component of NCLB, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that students are accessing services and succeeding in the classroom.
cc: Honorable Roger Sampson, Commissioner of Education