December 20, 2001
Honorable David Stewart
State Superintendent of Schools
West Virginia Department of Education
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
Dear Superintendent Stewart:
It was a pleasure speaking with you during my telephone call November 30 and receiving your letter of December 11. I look forward to continuing our work together to improve educational opportunities for children in West Virginia.
As you know, our original decision regarding the status of West Virginia's assessment system under Title I was that your State would be required to enter into a compliance agreement with this Department in order to continue to participate in the Title I program. A year ago our peer reviewers found that West Virginia was not in compliance with the Title I assessment requirements and could not come into compliance on a timely basis without entering into such an agreement. Subsequently, in October of this year, you submitted additional information to us and asked that your State receive a timeline waiver instead of entering into a compliance agreement. We submitted that additional information to our peer reviewers.
As we discussed over the phone, our peer reviewers and staff did not find that the additional information would justify changing the original decision because it still does not appear that West Virginia could come into compliance in a two-year period. More specifically, your State has not yet developed a standards-based assessment system, established performance standards, shown evidence that your assessments are aligned with State content standards, demonstrated technical quality of the assessments, shown how you will include all students in your new State assessment system, or demonstrated how you will use student performance data for all students in reporting the results and determining school accountability. While you have made significant progress, our peer reviewers and staff found that these major tasks remain and that they will take some time to accomplish.
For these reasons, as we discussed, the Department's decision is still that West Virginia must enter into a compliance agreement in order to continue participating in Title I. Because the new Elementary and Secondary Education reauthorization will require the Department to withhold administrative funds from States that do not have compliance agreements in place within 90 days, I think it is important that we enter into an agreement as quickly as possible. Your letter of December 11 indicated that you are willing to proceed with the compliance agreement immediately.
Under section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act, the Department may enter into compliance agreements with State or local educational agencies in situations where an entity cannot meet statutory requirements within the timeframe specified in law. Its purpose is to bring a grantee into compliance as soon as possible, but in no longer than three years.
This Department and your agency will need to agree on the components of the compliance agreement, including a detailed plan and specific timeline for all of the steps necessary to bring your State into compliance. Before entering into a compliance agreement, the Department will provide West Virginia with a hearing at which to demonstrate that full compliance is not feasible until a future date and will publish findings of noncompliance and the substance of the compliance agreement in the Federal Register. When the required steps have been completed, we will resubmit evidence that the assessment system meets the Title I requirements to a panel of peer reviewers for review. As requested in you letter of December 11, we are prepared to begin immediately to work with you to address the issues raised in this letter and to develop the details of the compliance agreement including dates for the hearing.
We look forward to working with West Virginia to support a high-quality assessment system. If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call Grace Ross of my staff in the Compensatory Education Programs, at 202-260-0967.
Susan B. Neuman, Ed.D.