August 14, 2006
Honorable Roger Sampson
Commissioner of Education
State Department of Education and Early Development
801 West Tenth Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 110500
Juneau, Alaska 99801-0500
Dear Commissioner Sampson:
I am writing in response to your agency's request, on behalf of one Alaska school district, for a flexibility agreement allowing the district to provide supplemental educational services (SES) under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), to students attending Title I schools in the first year of school improvement.
SES is a crucial 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. We have learned valuable lessons about SES in these first few years of implementation. Creating and implementing a successful SES program takes coordination and cooperation by States, school districts, providers, and parents.
Unfortunately, we know that around the country, not enough eligible students are participating in SES. Therefore, in order to increase both the number of students receiving these services and the quality of services provided to students, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is expanding the SES pilot begun last year. We are allowing the one Alaska district on whose behalf you applied, as well as several districts in four other States, to provide SES to students attending schools in year one of improvement. The results we have seen in the 2005-06 school year, the first year of the pilot, have been promising. For the 2006-07 school year, the pilot program will continue to address two key priorities: (1) ensuring that more students are receiving SES, and (2) ensuring the provision of better information on how SES programs are improving the academic achievement of students receiving services. In addition, as with last year's pilot, we hope to gain valuable information about SES in participating districts – information that can be shared with other States and districts to help them improve the quality of these services.
You have requested that one school district within Alaska, Anchorage Public Schools, be allowed to offer SES to eligible students in Title I schools in the first year of school improvement under NCLB. This district would then offer SES and public school choice to eligible students enrolled in any school that moves to the second year of school improvement.
The Department has reviewed Alaska's application for the 2006-07 pilot and has found that it meets the three key principles I outlined as requirements for participation in the pilot: (1) timely notification of adequate yearly progress, (2) a State SES evaluation in progress, and (3) a State assessment system that our Department has reviewed and to which the Department has granted Approval Expected. Additionally, Anchorage Public Schools has issued timely public school choice and SES parental notification letters.
Therefore, I am approving Alaska's request for participation in the pilot by approving a flexibility agreement with the State under section 9401 of the ESEA. This agreement permits the district to provide SES to eligible students in Title I schools in the first year of school improvement, thereby reversing the order outlined in sections 1116(b)(1)(E) and 1116(b)(5)(B) of Title I. Approval is conditioned on Alaska's fulfilling the conditions detailed in the enclosure and summarized here:
- More students participate in SES and public school choice;
- The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development must provide information on the academic achievement of students receiving SES in the participating district;
- The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development must ensure parent access to SES providers in the participating district;
- The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development must ensure timely parental notification and multiple or continuous enrollment periods in the participating district;
- The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development must participate in a data exchange project with the Department; and
- The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development must submit a report to the Department on the implementation of this pilot by June 30, 2007.
In addition, as required by section 9401(b)(3)(B) of the ESEA, within 30 days of the date of this letter, Anchorage Public Schools 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. The district 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 its provision of SES in Title I schools in the first year of school improvement; describes how those schools continued to provide Title I services to eligible students during that year; and evaluates the progress of the district and schools in increasing the quality of instruction and improving the academic achievement of students. Your agency must then submit a report to the Department based on the district's report.
This flexibility agreement applies to the provision of SES in Title I schools in the one pilot district during the 2006-07 school year.
SES is a vital 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 Frank Murkowski