SPECIAL EDUCATION & REHABILITATIVE SERVICES
Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
December 14, 2005
Archived Information


December 14, 2005

Dear Colleague:

I know you share the strong belief that our nation's elementary and secondary schoolchildren deserve an education that fully prepares them for college or the workforce. This goal is particularly critical for students with disabilities who, in the past, have often been held to lower standards and assessed in ways that failed to accommodate their disabilities and allow them to demonstrate what they have learned. As a result, I support emphatically the requirements that are the cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB): that all students, including students with disabilities, be held to challenging academic content and achievement standards; that their progress be measured annually by high-quality assessments aligned with those high standards; and that schools and school districts be held accountable for achieving results.

The Department has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would permit states to develop modified achievement standards aligned with grade-level content standards for a limited group of students with disabilities who may not be able to reach grade-level achievement standards within the same time frame as other students, even after receiving the best-designed instructional interventions from highly trained teachers. Under the proposed regulations, states would be able to develop assessments or modify regular assessments based on those modified achievement standards that are aligned with grade-level content standards and include proficient and advanced scores from these assessments (subject to a 2.0 percent cap at the district and state levels) in determining Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under Title I. We believe these proposed regulations provide appropriate flexibility for assessing this group of students with disabilities while ensuring that they are still held to challenging standards and included in grade-level instruction.

While the Department was drafting this proposed rule, states that expressed interest in developing modified achievement standards and assessments were able to take advantage of interim flexibility. For the 2004-05 school year, 31 states met the Department's criteria and were permitted to exercise additional flexibility in determining AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup (based on assessments given during that school year). I am extending this flexibility for a second year to cover the period of time when members of the public are commenting on the proposed rule and the Department is issuing a final version.

To qualify for this flexibility, a state must assess all students and meet other specific core requirements of NCLB related to students with disabilities (see www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/raising/disab-acctplan.html for those requirements) and must submit an amendment to its accountability plan. The requirements are the same as they were last year. The information at the following Web site explains the process for submitting amendments to your state accountability plan for approval: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/amproc05.doc. Please note that states should submit their proposed amendments to the Department no later than April 1, 2006, for amendments that apply to AYP determinations based on data from the 2005-06 school year. All states interested must apply for this flexibility, even if the state received the flexibility for the 2004-05 AYP determinations. However, states need to submit updated information only if they applied for this flexibility last year.

As I have said before, I absolutely believe this is the right approach for students. We have much work ahead of us to improve the instruction and assessment system for students with disabilities, and I look forward to working with you toward this end.

  Sincerely,
 
/s/
  Margaret Spellings

Attachment (1)

Adequate Yearly Progress and Modified Achievement Standards: Interim State Policy Options

December 2005

While the Department works to complete final regulations on modified achievement standards, eligible states may apply one of the following interim policy options to the 2005-06 school year Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) decisions (based on assessments administered during the 2005-06 school year). A state must use the same option for all of its eligible schools and districts. Please note that these interim options are in addition to the flexibility afforded a state by the Title I regulations to include in AYP determinations the proficient scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, subject to a 1.0 percent cap at the district and state levels.

Interim Option 1

This option applies only to schools and districts that did not make AYP based solely on the students with disabilities (SWD) subgroup scores. This option allows a state to make a mathematical adjustment to the proficiency rate of that subgroup in order to provide additional credit to these schools or districts. Eligible states without modified achievement standards may choose this option, or may propose an alternate approach. (See Interim Option 3.)

In general, eligible states may calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of special education students (as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. This proxy will then be added to the percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient and advanced. This adjusted percent proficient is what a state may use to reexamine if the school made AYP for the 2005-06 school year. A step-by-step explanation and an example follow.

  1. Calculate what 2.0 percent of the total number of students assessed within the state equates to solely within the SWD subgroup by dividing 2.0 by the percentage of students who have disabilities. This number, which will be a constant for every school, will be the basis for flexibility in school AYP determinations.
  2. Identify all schools that did not make AYP solely on the basis of the SWD subgroup and the proficiency rate of those students in each school.
  3. Calculate the adjusted percent proficient for each school's SWD subgroup. This adjustment is equal to the sum of the actual percent of proficient scores of this subgroup plus the proxy percent calculated in step 1 above.
  4. Compare this adjusted percent proficient for each school identified in step 2 to the state's annual measurable objective (AMO). This comparison must be conducted without the use of confidence intervals or other statistical treatments.
    1. If the adjusted proficiency rate for the school's SWD subgroup meets or exceeds the state's AMO, the school may be considered to have made AYP for the 2005-06 school year.
    2. If the adjusted proficiency rate for the school's SWD subgroup does not meet or exceed the state's AMO, the school did not make AYP for the 2005-06 school year.
  5. This process should be followed for reading and mathematics separately and also repeated at the district level, as needed.
  6. The actual percent proficient must be reported to parents and the public; the state may also report the adjusted percent proficient.

Example

Assume that the state identifies 12 percent of its students as those with disabilities; 2.0 percent of the total number of students assessed equates to 16.67 percent of students with disabilities (2 percent divided by 12 percent). Using traditional rounding rules, the state may round this proxy to the nearest whole number; in this instance the proxy would be 17 percent. The state's AMO for reading/language arts is 65 percent.

  1. Five schools did not make AYP solely on the basis of their SWD subgroups in reading (Column 1). Actual proficiency rates are in Column 2.
  2. Assign to each school's proficiency rate for its SWD subgroup the 17 percent proxy amount (Column 3).
  3. Calculate the adjusted percent proficient for each school's SWD subgroup (Column 4).
  4. Compare this adjusted proficiency rate to the state's AMO (Column 5). This comparison must be conducted without the use of confidence intervals or other statistical treatments.
    • Roosevelt and Washington made AYP for the 2005-06 school year.
    • Lincoln, Adams, and Coolidge Schools did not make AYP for this school year.
  5. School report cards should reflect the unadjusted proficiency rate (Column 2), but may also note the adjusted AYP decision (Column 5).
  6. Repeat the process for mathematics, and also at the district level as needed.
        STATE AMO=65%
(1)
School
(2)
Actual SWD proficient
(3)
Statewide adjustment as % of SWD
(4)
Adjusted Proficiency Col 2 + Col 3
(5)
Adjusted AYP Decision
Roosevelt 54% 17% 71% Yes
Washington 49% 17% 66% Yes
Lincoln 45% 17% 62% No
Adams 37% 17% 54% No
Coolidge 16% 17% 33% No

Interim Option 2

Eligible states that meet the following requirements may count in AYP calculations the proficient and advanced scores of students with disabilities assessed based on modified achievement standards, subject to a 2.0 percent cap. States selecting this option should ensure the assessment qualifies as one based on modified achievement standards according to the proposed rule. Out-of-level assessments do not qualify as assessments based on modified achievement standards.

Similar to the requirements for alternate achievement standards, an eligible state may count the proficient and advanced scores of students with disabilities assessed based on modified achievement standards, if the state has:

  • Administered a well-established modified assessment statewide;
  • Established clear guidelines for students with disabilities' participation in the assessment based on modified achievement standards;
  • Employed a documented and validated standard-setting process to define the modified achievement standards; and
  • Adopted the modified achievement standards and provided appropriate training for teachers and IEP teams.

Interim Option 3

States may also offer their own ideas for the secretary of education's consideration. When the secretary offered this interim flexibility for the 2004-05 AYP determinations, several states developed a different idea and were approved to use that proposal (Colorado, Maryland, and Massachusetts). You may wish to review these proposals to see if any are appropriate for your state. See Element 5.3 of the states' accountability workbooks at www.ed.gov/admins/lead/ account/stateplans03/index.html.


 
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Last Modified: 12/13/2005