Request to Amend Accountability Plan – Pennsylvania – NCLB Policy Letters to States

August 6, 2009

Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak
Secretary of Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17126

Dear Secretary Zahorchak:

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 from states and districts, as well as other stakeholders, 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 Pennsylvania’s request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA. Following discussions between the Department and your staff, you made a change to Pennsylvania’s accountability plan, which is now included in the amended plan that Pennsylvania submitted to the Department on July 24, 2009. I am pleased to approve Pennsylvania’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of Pennsylvania’s requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Pennsylvania’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 Pennsylvania’s accountability plan for Title I, including the amendment 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 Pennsylvania 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 Patrick Rooney or of my staff.


Joseph C. Conaty


cc: Governor Ed Rendell
Shula Nedley

Amendment to Pennsylvania’s Accountability Plan

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

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Method of adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations, including the removal of the performance index and the application of a growth model (Element 3.2)

As noted in the June 24, 2009, letter from Secretary Zahorchak to Secretary Duncan, Pennsylvania will no longer use, beginning with AYP determinations based on assessments administered in 2008–09, the Pennsylvania Performance Index. As a result, Pennsylvania has satisfied the condition it was required to meet when Pennsylvania was conditionally approved to implement its growth model in AYP determinations on January 8, 2009 http://www.ed.gov As a result, Pennsylvania may implement a growth model in determining AYP.

Including students with disabilities in adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations (Element 5.3)

Revision: Pennsylvania will use the “proxy method” (option 1 in the Department’s guidance dated December 2005) to take advantage of the transition flexibility offered by the Department pursuant to its authority under 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g) (see http://www.ed.gov for calculating AYP for the students with disabilities subgroup for the 2008–09 school year. If a school or district misses AYP solely on the basis of the students with disabilities subgroup, a proxy of students with disabilities equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed will be added to the actual percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient or advanced in the school or district. Pennsylvania will then use this adjusted percentage proficient to re-examine whether the school or district made AYP for the 2008–09 school year. The actual percentage proficient will be reported to parents and the public. Pennsylvania is approved to implement this flexibility in grades 3-8 and high school.