June 24, 2008 – Virginia Assessment Letter

June 24, 2008

The Honorable Billy K. Cannaday
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Virginia Department of Education
P.O. Box 2120
Richmond, Virginia 23218

Dear Superintendent Cannaday:

I am writing in response to Virginia’s 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 Virginia’s accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that Virginia submitted to the Department on June 17, 2008. I am pleased to approve Virginia’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of Virginia’s requested amendments that were reviewed by my office is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend the Virginia 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 Virginia’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 Virginia 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, assessments, and accountability provisions of NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Leighann Lenti (leighann.lenti@ed.gov) or David Harmon (david.harmon@ed.gov) of my staff.


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Tim Kaine
Mark Emblidge
Linda Wallinger
Roberta Schlichter

Amendments to the Virginia Accountability Plan

The following is a summary of the state’s amendment requests that were reviewed by the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Please refer to the Department’s website (www.ed.govhttps://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for Virginia’s complete accountability plan.

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations:

Science assessments (Element 6.1)

Revision: Virginia clarifies that it is administering science assessments in grades 3, 5, and 8, and using an end-of-course assessment at the high school level. Please note that approval of this amendment is not approval of Virginia’s science assessments and, in approving this amendment, the Department expresses no opinion on the sufficiency of Virginia’s science assessments. The science assessments will be reviewed through the standards and assessment peer review process that is separate and distinct from the amendment approval process.

Averaging data across years for AYP calculations (Element 6.1)

Revision: Virginia clarifies that it will average data over a period of three years when calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP). A school or local educational agency (LEA) can make AYP either by:

  1. Current year performance; or
  2. The weighted average of student performance in grades 3-8 and end-of-course exams for the current and previous two years. Additionally, Virginia will apply Safe Harbor if a school does not make AYP through the current or three-year average.

Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)

Revision: Virginia will use the “proxy method” (option 1 in our guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the transition flexibility regarding calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup (www.ed.govhttps://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/nclb/twopercent.doc) for the 2007-08 school year. If a school misses AYP solely on the basis of students with disabilities, a proxy that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students tested will be added to the percentage of disabled students in the school that were proficient. Virginia will use this adjusted percentage proficient to re-examine whether the school or district made AYP for the 2007-08 school year. The actual percentage proficient will still be reported to parents and the public.

Unacceptable amendments

The following amendments may not be included in Virginia’s accountability plan.

Reversing the order of school improvement interventions (Elements 1.6 and 4.1)

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education does not approve Virginia’s proposal to reverse the order of public school choice and supplemental educational services (SES) in all schools identified in need of improvement statewide at this time. However, Virginia may apply for participation in the SES Pilot, announced June 4, 2008, allowing districts to offer SES to eligible students in schools in year one of school improvement status (www.ed.govhttps://www2.ed.gov/nclb/choice/help/ses/08agreements.html).

Annual measurable annual objectives (AMAO) for limited English proficient (LEP) students (Element 5.4)

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education does not approve Virginia’s proposal to extend its Title III AMAO targets for the 2008-09 school year. Virginia must have this requested change processed and approved through the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA).

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans