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

August 18, 2008

The Honorable Terry Bergeson
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Washington Department of Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
PO Box 47200
Olympia, Washington 98504

Dear Superintendent Bergeson:

I am writing in response to Washington’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 Washington’s state accountability plan, which are now included in the amended state accountability plan that Washington submitted to the Department on August 12, 2008. I am pleased to approve Washington’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of Washington’s requested amendments is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend Washington’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 Washington’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 Washington 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 NCLB, please do not hesitate to contact Patrick Rooney ( or Clayton Hollingshead (


Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.


cc: Governor Chris Gregoire
Bob Harmon
JoLynn Berge

Amendments to Washington’s Accountability Plan

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

Acceptable amendments

The following amendments are aligned with the statute and regulations.

Including students with disabilities in AYP determinations (Element 5.3)

Revision: Washington 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, as offered by the Department pursuant to its authority under 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(g). See www.ed.gov Washington will calculate a proxy to determine the percentage of students with disabilities that is equivalent to 2.0 percent of all students assessed. For the 2007-08 school year only, this proxy will then be added to the percentage of students with disabilities who score proficient or above. Washington will use this adjusted percentage proficient to re-examine if a school or district made AYP for the 2007-08 school year only if the school or district did not make AYP solely due to its students with disabilities subgroup.

Minimum group size (Element 5.5)

Revision: Washington will use a uniform minimum group size of 30 students (or 1 percent of the tested population if the tested population exceeds 3,000 students) for the “all students” group and all student subgroups when calculating proficiency rates for AYP determinations.

Unacceptable amendments

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

Exemptions of limited English proficient (LEP) students (Element 5.4)

The Department cannot approve Washington’s request to exempt LEP students in their first year of enrollment in U.S. schools from taking any assessment in which all test items require reading English. Nor can the Department approve Washington’s request to not count, for up to three years, the results of LEP students who take any assessment in which all test items require reading English, unless the student has demonstrated at least intermediate proficiency in English.

The Department’s regulations in 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(f)(1)(ii) permit a state to exempt recently arrived LEP students (i.e., those who have attended schools in the United States for less than12 months) from one administration of the State’s reading/language arts assessment. 34 C.F.R. § 200.6(b)(4). The regulations in 34 C.F.R. § 200.20(f) (1) also permit a state to exclude the scores of recently arrived LEP students in reading/language arts (if taken) and mathematics from one AYP determination. Those regulations, however, require a state to assess all LEP students in mathematics and to assess LEP students who have been enrolled in schools in the United States for more than 12 months in reading/language arts. Washington’s request exceeds the flexibility afforded by these regulations and conflicts with the statutory requirement to include LEP students in a state’s assessments under section 1111(b)(3)(C)(ix) of the ESEA. Additionally, Washington may permit any language translation or accommodation that may be necessary, so long as it does not invalidate the test results, but the students must be assessed.

Same subgroup/same subject identification for AYP (Element 9.1)

Section 1116(b)(1) of the ESEA requires a state to identify for school improvement any Title I school that fails, for two consecutive years, to make AYP as defined under section 1111(b)(2). There is flexibility in section 1111(b)(2) to permit a state to determine schools in need of improvement on the basis of not making AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years. This flexibility stems from other provisions in the statute that treat reading and mathematics independently (e.g., separate starting points and annual measurable objectives). These provisions recognize that student achievement in reading and mathematics in a state may be starting at very different points and thus the state would need to establish different trajectories to attain 100 percent proficiency. Concomitantly, it makes sense to permit a state to identify schools in need of improvement based on not making AYP for two years in the same subject. Subgroups, on the other hand, are not treated differently in the statute and thus the statute does not support similar flexibility to identify schools in need of improvement on the basis of “same subgroup” performance for two consecutive years. Moreover, this is inconsistent with the statute’s accountability provisions in section 1111(b)(2)(C), which require that each subgroup meet the state’s annual objectives in each subject each year. The intent of school identification is not to lay blame on a particular group of students, as the “same subgroup/same subject” proposal would do, but to identify the instructional and academic areas that need to be improved. A school that is identified for improvement should look to specific instructional remedies in the subject area, other indicator, or participation rate that resulted in its identification.

Decision Letters on State Accountability Plans