August 14, 2009 – Decision Letter on Request to Amend Utah Accountability Plan

August 14, 2009

The Honorable Larry Shumway
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Utah State Office of Education
P.O. Box 144200
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200

Dear Superintendent Shumway:

On behalf of Secretary Duncan, I want to thank you for your hard work in implementing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). As you may know, the Secretary is traveling the country and listening to representatives of states and school districts, as well as other stakeholders, to talk about the ways in which the ESEA can be improved. These conversations will inform the next reauthorization of the statute. In the meantime, we will push towards our reform goals under the authority of, and in accordance with, the existing statute and regulations.

I am writing in response to Utah’s request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made two changes to Utah’s accountability plan, which are now included in the amended plan that Utah submitted to the Department on August 5, 2009. I am pleased to approve Utah’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of Utah’s requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Utah’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 Utah’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 Utah will continue to advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. If you need any additional assistance to implement the standards, assessment, and accountability provisions of the ESEA, please do not hesitate to contact or of my staff.


Joseph C. Conaty

cc: Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Judy Park

Amendment to Utah’s Accountability Plan

The following is a summary of Utah’s amendment requests. Please refer to the Department’s website www.ed.gov for Utah’s complete accountability plan.

Acceptable amendment

The following amendment is aligned with the statute and regulations.

Identifying districts for improvement (Element 1.6)

Revision: Utah amends the method by which a district can be removed from being identified for improvement so that the district must make adequate yearly progress (AYP) across all grade spans for the same subject or other academic indicator for which it was identified.

Calculating AYP and starting points, intermediate goals, and annual measurable objectives (AMOs) (Elements 3.2 a, b, and c)

Revision: Utah made changes to its mathematics assessments necessitated the state to reset its academic achievement standards. Consequently, Utah made the following two changes to Utah’s AYP calculations:

  1. For the 2008–09 school year only, Utah will use an equi-percentile method to equate proficiency standards on the 2008 and 2009 assessments for calculating Safe Harbor between the two years with different academic achievement standards; and
  2. Utah reset the starting points, intermediate goals, and AMOs, using the statutory method process laid out in section 1111(b)(2)(E) of the ESEA, setting the starting point by the state’s lowest achieving subgroup. The new AMOs are:
Mathematics 2008–09 & 2009–10 2010–11 & 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2013–14
Grades 3-8 45 63 81 100
Grade 10-12 40 60 80 100

Please note that Utah must comply with the provisions requiring districts to notify parents of students in schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring of their available public school choice options at least 14 days before the beginning of the school year (34 C.F.R. § 200.37(b)(4)(iv)). If, because of this change, districts in Utah are unable to meet this requirement, the state may request a waiver of the 14-day requirement for 2008-09 on behalf of its districts (see http://www.ed.gov

Unacceptable amendments

The following amendments are not aligned with the statute and regulations and are, therefore, not approved.

Targeting public school choice and supplemental educational services (SES) to non-proficient students (Element 1.6)

The Department cannot approve Utah’s proposal to target public school choice and supplemental educational services (SES) only to non-proficient students in schools that are identified as in need of improvement. All students in a school identified as in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring must be offered the option to transfer to another public school that is not so identified (section 1116(b)(1)(E), (b)(5)(A), (b)(7)(C)(i), (b)(8)(A)(i) of the ESEA), and all students from low-income families in a school in its second year of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring must be offered SES (section 1116(b)(5)(B), (b)(7)(C)(iii), (b)(8)(A)(ii), (e) of the ESEA). Only if a district needs to prioritize because it cannot meet all demand may it target these options to the lowest achieving of these students.

Identifying schools for improvement (Elements 1.6 and 9.1)

The Department cannot approve Utah’s proposal to base school improvement designations on the same subgroup’s failing to make AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years. This proposal is explicitly prohibited by 34 C.F.R. § 200.32(a)(1)(ii)(B).

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans