Decision Letter on Request to Amend California Accountability Plan

September 26, 2008

The Honorable Theodore Mitchell
California State Board of Education
1430 N. Street, Suite 5111
Sacramento, California 95814

The Honorable Jack O'Connell
Superintendent of Public Instruction
California Department of Education
P.O. Box 944272
Sacramento, California 94244-2720

Dear President Mitchell and Superintendent O'Connell:

I am writing in response to California' request to amend its state accountability plan 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). Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made certain changes to California's accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that California submitted to the Department on September 9, 2008. I am pleased to approve California amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website. A summary of the amendments submitted for the 2007-08 school year is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend California's accountability plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I of the ESEA.

Please also be aware that approval of California's accountability plan for Title I, including the amendments approved herein, does not indicate that the plan complies with Federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

I am confident that California will continue to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If you need any additional assistance in implementing the standards, assessment, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) or Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Deb Merle
Rachel Perry

Amendments to California's Accountability Plan

The following is a summary of California's amendment requests. Please refer to the Department's website (www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for California's complete Accountability Plan.

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations:

Including all schools in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 1.1)

Revision: California clarified that a school with kindergarten or 1st grade as the highest grade will be assigned an AYP status derived from the 2nd-grade test results for the school with which it is paired.

Identifying LEAs as in need of improvement (Element 3.2)

Revision: California clarified that, when calculating AYP for LEAs, it uses the same steps for each LEA grade span that it uses for schools:

  1. Application of Safe Harbor for all grade spans and for all subgroups;
  2. Use of a 99 percent confidence interval for grade spans with fewer than 100 valid scores but not for numerically significant subgroups within grade spans with fewer than 100 valid scores; and
  3. Use of 2- and 3-year averaging for the proficiency and participation rate targets.

Identifying schools/LEAs as in need of improvement (Element 3.2)

Revision: California clarified that, if a school or LEA that is identified as in need of improvement ceases to receive Title I funds, it is not required to continue the activities it has undertaken as a result of being identified as in need of improvement. The school or LEA would retain its existing improvement status for up to three years (unless it makes AYP for two consecutive years). If the school or LEA once again receives Title I funds within the three-year period, it will be required to implement the same level of activities as when it stopped receiving Title I funds.

Timeline for AYP determinations (Element 3.2)

Revision: The California State Board of Education will formally approve academic achievement standards for its new alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards, the CMA, for grades 3-5 in November 2008. At the beginning of the 2008-09 school year, all schools and districts will have the same AYP status as during the 2007-08 school year. All schools and districts that cannot exit improvement status will implement the appropriate interventions prior to the start of the school year. If these schools and districts fail to make AYP based upon the 2007-08 assessment data, they will begin offering the next level of services based on preliminary AYP results. Schools and districts on the "watch list" (i.e., schools and districts that did not make AYP based upon 2006-07 assessment data) have been notified to plan for the possibility of offering services (i.e., public school choice) and must act immediately on the preliminary AYP results. Schools and districts previously identified as in need of improvement that make AYP for the first time will continue to offer the same level of services. Schools and districts previously identified as in need of improvement that make AYP for the second consecutive year based upon 2007-08 assessment data will no longer be identified for improvement and no action is required.

Including students with disabilities in AYP (Element 5.3)

Revision: California will include in AYP determinations for the 2007-08 school year the scores of students with disabilities in grades 3-5 who are proficient or above (up to a 2.0 percent cap at the district and state levels) on the CMA, an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards.

Please note that approval of this amendment by the Department does not constitute approval of the CMA or California's modified academic achievement standards. In approving this amendment, the Department expresses no opinion on the sufficiency of either the CMA or California's modified academic achievement standards.

Revision: California will allow students with disabilities to use calculators on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and include them as participants and adjust test scores to account for changes in item difficulty resulting from the use of a calculator.

Inclusion of limited English proficient (LEP) students in AYP determinations (Element 5.4)

Revision: In determining whether the LEP subgroup meets the state's minimum subgroup size for proficiency calculations, California will include "Reclassified-Fluent-English-Proficient" (RFEP) students if their results are included in determining whether the LEP subgroup met the annual measurable objective (AMO).

Unacceptable amendment

The following amendment is not aligned with the statute and regulations and, therefore, not approved.

Including Students with Disabilities (Element 5.3)

California requested to use the "proxy method" to take advantage of the transition flexibility authorized by 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g) regarding calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup. Consistent with 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g), to be eligible for this flexibility, a state must meet the criteria established in the Department's April 2007 guidance, including having an approved assessment system (see: www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/nclb/twopercent.doc). Because California's assessment system is currently designated Approval Pending and will not be approved as administered in 2007-08, the state is not eligible to use the transition flexibility for 2007-08 AYP determinations.

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans

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Last Modified: 09/26/2008