June 30, 2008
The Honorable Theodore R. 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 to express my concern that California is not acting expeditiously to come into compliance with the standards and assessment requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
As you know, the ESEA required each state to implement a compliant standards and assessment system by the 2005-06 school year to measure achievement in each of grades 3 through 8 and once in high school in reading/language arts and mathematics. Two years later, California still does not have an approved system. As I noted in my letters on February 6 and May 2, 2008, we continue to have concerns regarding the alignment of the 8th-grade mathematics assessments with California's grade-level content standards. Due to the length of time needed to resolve this significant issue, the Department requested that California enter into a Compliance Agreement with the Department, as authorized by Section 457 of the General Education Provisions Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1234f. The purpose of a compliance agreement is to enable a grantee to remain eligible to receive funding while coming into full compliance with applicable requirements as soon as feasible but within three years.
I know that the State Board of Education met to discuss this issue on June 16, 2008, but that it did not come to a resolution regarding its approach for coming into compliance and that the Board is meeting again on July 9-10, 2008. I hope California is able to determine its approach for complying with the ESEA at the July meeting. As I noted in my letter on February 6, "under a compliance agreement, California could, for example, phase in, over a period of no more than three years, a requirement that all 8th-graders take Algebra I. As another suggestion, California could develop a new test aligned with the Algebra I content standards that all 8th-graders take." I am willing to come to Sacramento with my staff and, if you think it would be helpful, one or two assessment experts, to meet with you and Secretary of Education Dave Long to help refine the approach developed at the July Board meeting. I ask that you coordinate with Secretary Long to schedule such a meeting.
Let me reiterate that the Department is willing to work with California regarding its approach to resolve this issue. However, California must develop a system that includes all students in assessments that measure grade-level content. As California currently remains out of compliance with the legal requirements for standards and assessment systems, it must demonstrate progress toward finalizing a signed compliance agreement. A public hearing is required before a compliance agreement can be executed. If the hearing is not scheduled before August 1, the Department will initiate withholding a portion of California's fiscal year 2008 Title I, Part A administrative funds. If you have any questions regarding the steps necessary to finalize the compliance agreement, please do not hesitate to contact Grace Ross (Grace.Ross@ed.gov) or Patrick Rooney (Patrick.Rooney@ed.gov) of my staff.
Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Secretary Dave Long