Tag Archives: Elementary Secondary Schools

Secretary’s Approval Letter for Texas ESEA Flexibility

September 30, 2013

Honorable Michael L. Williams
Commissioner of Education
Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

Dear Commissioner Williams:

I am pleased to approve Texas’ request for ESEA flexibility, subject to Texas’ meeting the condition described below. I congratulate you on submitting a request that demonstrates Texas’ commitment to improving academic achievement and the quality of instruction for all of its elementary and secondary school students.

In the fall of 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) offered States the opportunity to request flexibility from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. This flexibility is intended to support the groundbreaking reforms already taking place in many States and districts that we believe hold promise for improving outcomes for students. I am encouraged by the innovative thinking and strong commitment to improving achievement for all students that is evident in Texas’ request.

My decision to approve Texas’ request for ESEA flexibility is based on our determination that the request meets the four principles articulated in the Department’s updated June 7, 2012, document titled ESEA Flexibility. In particular, Texas has: (1) demonstrated that it has college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) developed and demonstrated that it has a high-quality plan to implement a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support for all Title I districts and schools in the State; (3) committed to developing, adopting, piloting, and implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that support student achievement; and (4) provided an assurance that it will evaluate and revise its administrative requirements to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden on districts and schools. This approval decision is also based on Texas’ assurance that it will meet these four principles by implementing the high-quality plans and other elements described in its request and in accordance with the required time lines. In approving Texas’ request, I have taken into consideration the feedback that was received from the panel of peer experts and Department staff who reviewed Texas’ request, as well as Texas’ revisions to its request in response to that feedback.

The waivers that comprise ESEA flexibility are being granted to Texas pursuant to my authority in section 9401 of the ESEA. A complete list of the statutory provisions being waived is set forth in the table enclosed with this letter. Consistent with section 9401(d)(1) of the ESEA, I am granting waivers of these provisions through the end of the 2013–2014 school year. If Texas meets the condition described below prior to the end of the 2013–2014 school year, Texas may request an extension of these waivers through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. At that time Texas may request a further extension of these waivers.

My decision to place a condition on the approval of Texas’ request is based on the fact that Texas has not yet finalized its guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. However, I have determined that, in the 2013–2014 school year, Texas is able to fully meet the ESEA flexibility principles while it continues to finalize its new guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.

To request approval to implement these waivers beyond the 2013–2014 school year, Texas must submit to the Department for review and approval, by May 2, 2014, an amended request incorporating final guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility, including the use of student growth, as defined in ESEA Flexibility, as a significant factor in determining a teacher’s or principal’s summative evaluation rating. If Texas does not submit final guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility by May 2, 2014, the waivers being granted to Texas will expire at the end of the 2013–2014 school year, and Texas and its schools will be required to immediately resume complying with all ESEA requirements.

In the coming days, you will receive a letter from Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, containing additional information regarding Texas’ implementation of ESEA flexibility, as well as information regarding monitoring and reporting. Please note that the Department will closely monitor Texas’ implementation of the plans, systems, and interventions detailed in its request in order to ensure that all students continue to receive the assistance and supports needed to improve their academic achievement.

Texas continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility as well as their implementation of all other Federal education programs. These laws include 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, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

A copy of Texas’ approved request for ESEA flexibility will be posted on the Department’s Web site at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests. Again, I congratulate you on the approval of Texas’ request for ESEA flexibility and thank you for the work that you and your staff have done. I look forward to continuing to support you as you implement Texas’ ESEA flexibility request and work to improve the quality of instruction and academic achievement for all students.

Sincerely,

/s/

Arne Duncan

Enclosure

cc: Honorable Rick Perry

Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, Chief Deputy Commissioner

Secretary’s Extension Approval Letter (Texas) ESEA Flexibility

September 19, 2014

The Honorable Michael L. Williams
Commissioner
Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701

Dear Commissioner Williams:

This letter is a response to Texas’ July 22, 2014 request for a one-year extension of flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA flexibility), so that Texas may continue to implement ESEA flexibility through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. Currently, Texas’ ESEA flexibility is approved subject to the condition that Texas submit to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) final guidelines for its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility by May 2, 2014.

Our team has reviewed Texas’ request and, pursuant to section 9401(d)(2) of the ESEA, I am pleased to extend Texas’ ESEA flexibility request for one year, through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. My decision to extend Texas’ ESEA flexibility request is based on my determination that ESEA flexibility has been effective in enabling Texas to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement and that this extension is in the public interest.

In regard to the condition that Texas submit final guidelines for its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility, I know that Texas has submitted guidelines for review. However, because peer review of those guidelines has not yet occurred, I am leaving the condition in place for the time being. Based upon the peer review scheduled for October 14-15, 2014, if ED determines that Texas’ guidelines meet the requirements of Principle 3 of ESEA flexibility, I will remove the condition at that time.

This extension is subject to Texas’ commitment to continue working with ED to resolve any issues regarding its Principle 3 guidelines raised through the peer review process. Once Texas’s Principle 3 guidelines have been approved, the full ESEA flexibility approved request will be posted on the ED website. Texas’ continued work with ED on the Principle 3 approval process will inform ED’s decision regarding renewal of Texas’ ESEA flexibility after the 2014–2015 school year.

Texas continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility. These laws include 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, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

I am confident that Texas will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. If you need any additional assistance to implement your ESEA flexibility request, please do not hesitate to contact Erin Shackel of my staff at: erin.shackel@ed.gov.

Thank you for your commitment and continued focus on enhancing education for all of Texas’ students.

Sincerely,

/s/

Deborah S. Delisle
Assistant Secretary

cc: Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, Chief Deputy Commissioner
Kalese Hammonds, Chief Advisor for Policy and Operations

Secretary’s Submission Extension Approval Letter (Texas) ESEA Flexibility

Date: March 7, 2013

The Honorable Michael L. Williams
Commissioner
Texas Education Agency
1701 Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701

Dear Commissioner Williams:

On February 28, 2013, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) submitted a request for waivers in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department’s) September 23, 2011, document titled ESEA Flexibility, which invited each State educational agency (SEA) to request flexibility regarding specific requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended, in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive State-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.

TEA staff subsequently indicated, in a March 1, 2013, phone call with Department staff, that its submission was an interim framework and that a complete request would be finalized by mid-April. TEA staff therefore requested to resubmit TEA’s request in April.

We agree that TEA would benefit from additional time to prepare a request that responds more fully to each of the principles of ESEA flexibility and therefore I am granting TEA an extension to resubmit its request no later than April 15, 2013. At the same time, given the importance of expediting review and revisions, if needed, to ensure that, if TEA’s request is approved, such approval occurs in time for full implementation by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, the Department believes it is essential to provide technical assistance to TEA staff on key aspects of ESEA flexibility. I am therefore granting this extension to TEA subject to the condition that TEA staff consult regularly with Department staff during the preparation of its revised request. Laura Jimenez of my staff will reach out to TEA staff in the coming days to discuss the details of that regular consultation.

Peer review of TEA’s resubmitted request is anticipated to occur the week of May 6, 2013.

I look forward to receiving TEA’s complete request and working with TEA to increase student achievement and improve the quality of instruction for all students. Thank you for your commitment to all students in Texas.

Sincerely,

/s/

Deb Delisle

cc: Lizzette Reynolds, Chief Deputy Commissioner

Secretary’s Amendment Letter (Tennessee) ESEA Flexibility July 17, 2014

July 17, 2014

The Honorable Kevin Huffman
Commissioner of Education
State Department of Education
6th Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243

Dear Commissioner Huffman:

I am writing regarding the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE) decision to not administer in the 2014–2015 school year the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium assessments, as originally indicated in its approved ESEA flexibility request. To meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility, a State educational agency (SEA) must develop and administer annual, Statewide, high-quality assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards, and corresponding academic achievement standards, in reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. These assessments must be fully implemented no later than the 2014–2015 school year. Among other characteristics, a high-quality assessment must be valid, reliable, and fair for its intended purposes, produce student achievement data and student growth data that can be used to determine whether an individual student is college- and career-ready or on track to being college- and career-ready, and provide an accurate measure of student growth over a full academic year or course. In its approved ESEA flexibility request, TDOE met this requirement through its participation in PARCC. As a result of TDOE no longer administering PARCC in the 2014–2015 school year, it must amend its ESEA flexibility request to demonstrate how it will meet the requirement to develop and administer high-quality assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards in reading/language arts and mathematics by the 2014–2015 school year. This letter details how TDOE must amend its request in order to remain in compliance with ESEA flexibility requirements.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) provided an SEA with three options to address how it would meet the requirement to develop and administer high-quality assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards: (a) provide evidence that the SEA is participating in one of the two State assessment consortia — i.e., PARCC or SBAC; (b) provide the SEA’s plan to develop and administer high-quality assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards no later than 2014–2015; or (c) provide evidence that the SEA submitted previously developed high-quality assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards to ED for peer review or provide a timeline of when the SEA will submit them for peer review.

Since TDOE is no longer administering PARCC assessments in the 2014–2015 school year, and TDOE contends that it is implementing ESEA flexibility by administering its own high-quality assessment aligned to college- and career-ready standards, TDOE must provide a description and, as needed, supporting evidence of the steps that it took to determine that its assessment is a high-quality assessment aligned with the State’s college- and career-ready standards, consistent with the definitions in the document titled ESEA Flexibility (available at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/documents/esea-flexibility-acc.doc), including, in particular, a description of the steps TDOE took to obtain an independent evaluation of alignment of the assessment with the State’s college- and career-ready standards and feedback from the State’s technical advisory committee indicating that the assessment meets the high-quality assessment criteria.

Please note that the submission of this information does not constitute submission for the required peer review, nor would ED’s approval of the submission constitute approval of the assessments. Additional information is forthcoming about the ED’s process to review and approve State assessment systems.

To amend its approved request for ESEA flexibility, TDOE must submit both the amendment request template (available at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.html) and a redlined version of its currently approved request reflecting that it has changed its approach to developing and administering high-quality assessments. The information requested above may either be inserted into the redlined request or submitted as an attachment to the redlined request. TDOE must submit this amendment request as part of its request to extend flexibility for the 2014–2015 school year. ED will review the request and will notify TDOE, in writing, of its determination.

ED has already spoken with Hanseul Kang, your ESEA flexibility lead, regarding this amendment request. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Victoria Hammer of my staff at: victoria.hammer@ed.gov.

Sincerely,

/s/

Deborah S. Delisle
Assistant Secretary

cc: Hanseul Kang, Chief of Staff

Secretary’s Amendment Letter (Tennessee) ESEA Flexibility

Date: August 31, 2012

Honorable Kevin Huffman
Commissioner of Education
Tennessee State Department of Education
6th Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243-0375

Dear Commissioner Huffman:

I am writing in response to the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE’s) request to amend its approved ESEA flexibility request by revising its annual measurable objectives (AMOs). Following discussions between the U.S. Department of Education (Department) and your staff regarding the proposed revision to Tennessee’s AMOs, the Department has determined that the revised AMOs continue to be consistent with principles of ESEA flexibility. For this reason, I am approving TDOE’s amended request, which we will post on the Department’s website. A summary of TDOE’s requested amendment is enclosed with this letter. As you know, any further requests to amend TDOE’s ESEA flexibility plan must be submitted to the Department for review and approval.

TDOE continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility as well as their implementation of all other Federal education programs. These laws include 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, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

I am confident that TDOE will continue to implement the reforms it proposed under its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. If you have any questions regarding the implementation of your ESEA flexibility request, please do not hesitate to contact Victoria Hammer of my staff at Victoria.Hammer@ed.gov

Sincerely,

/s/

Deborah S. Delisle

Enclosure

cc: Governor Bill Haslam
Erin O’Hara, Assistant Commissioner of Data and Communications


Amendment to the Tennessee Department of Education’s Approved ESEA Flexibility Request

The following is a summary of the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE’s) amendment request. The Department is approving the following amendment because Tennessee’s ESEA flexibility request, as amended, continues to be aligned with the principles of ESEA flexibility. Please refer to the Department’s website (www.ed.govhttps://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html) for Tennessee’s original and amended ESEA flexibility requests.

  • Set Ambitious But Achievable Annual Measurable Objectives (Element 2.B)
  • Revision: TDOE will revise its annual measurable objective (AMO) baselines based on 2010-2011 assessment results and, accordingly, its yearly AMOs as proposed in its original ESEA flexibility request. Resetting its AMOs is necessary in order to (1) apply the one and two percent “caps” on the percentage of proficient and advanced scores of students with disabilities who take the State’s alternate assessment based on alternate academic standards and alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards, respectively; (2) not include gifted students in calculating the baselines and AMOs for the students with disabilities subgroup; (3) include English Learners who have exited the limited English proficient (LEP) subgroup within the last two years in calculating the baselines and AMOs for the LEP subgroup; and (4) reflect in the baselines and AMOs the waivers that the Department granted the State on July 20th, 2012 to allow it to use, with respect to a student who is not yet enrolled in high school but who takes Algebra I or English II and the corresponding end of course assessment, the student’s score on that assessment for federal accountability purposes for the grade in which the student is enrolled.

Secretary’s Approval Letter (Tennessee) ESEA Flexibility

February 9, 2012

 

Honorable Kevin Huffman

Commissioner of Education

State Department of Education

6th Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower

710 James Robertson Parkway

Nashville, TN 37243-0375

Dear Commissioner Huffman:

I am pleased to approve Tennessee’s request for ESEA flexibility. I congratulate you on submitting a request that demonstrates Tennessee’s commitment to improving academic achievement and the quality of instruction for all of the State’s elementary and secondary school students.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) offered States the opportunity to request flexibility from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. This flexibility is intended to support the groundbreaking reforms already taking place in many States and districts that we believe hold promise for improving outcomes for students. We are encouraged by the innovative thinking and strong commitment to improving achievement for all students that is evident in Tennessee’s request.

Our decision to approve Tennessee’s request for ESEA flexibility is based on our determination that the request meets the four principles articulated in the Department’s September 23, 2011, document titled ESEA Flexibility. In particular, Tennessee has: (1) demonstrated that it has college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) developed, and has a high-quality plan to implement, a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support for all Title I districts and schools in the State; (3) committed to developing, adopting, piloting, and implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that support student achievement; and (4) provided an assurance that it will evaluate and, based on that evaluation, revise its administrative requirements to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden on districts and schools. Our decision is also based on Tennessee’s assurance that it will meet these four principles by implementing the high-quality plans and other elements of its request as described in its request and in accordance with the required timelines. In approving Tennessee’s request, we have taken into consideration the feedback we received from the panel of peer experts and Department staff who reviewed Tennessee’s request, as well as Tennessee’s revisions to its request in response to that feedback.

The waivers that comprise ESEA flexibility are being granted to Tennessee pursuant to my authority in section 9401 of the ESEA. A complete list of the statutory provisions being waived is set forth in the table enclosed with this letter. Consistent with section 9401(d)(1) of the ESEA, I am granting waivers of these provisions through the end of the 2013–2014 school year. At that time, Tennessee may request an extension of these waivers.

In the coming days, you will receive a letter from Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, containing additional information regarding Tennessee’s implementation of ESEA flexibility, as well as information regarding monitoring and reporting. Please note that the Department will closely monitor Tennessee’s implementation of the plans, systems, and interventions detailed in its request in order to ensure that all students continue to receive the assistance and supports needed to improve their academic achievement.

As you know, we are continuing to review each State’s implementation of the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as defined in 34 C.F.R. § 200.19(b)(1)(i)-(iv). We will follow up with Tennessee in the coming weeks about further evidence required to demonstrate that the State is implementing the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate in accordance with the regulatory requirements.

Tennessee continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility as well as their implementation of all other Federal education programs. These laws include 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, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

A copy of Tennessee’s approved request for ESEA flexibility will be posted on the Department’s Web site at: http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility/requests. Again, I congratulate you on the approval of Tennessee’s request for ESEA flexibility and thank you for the work that you and your staff have done. I look forward to continuing to support you as you implement Tennessee’s ESEA flexibility request and work to improve the quality of instruction and academic achievement for all students.

Sincerely,

/s/

Arne Duncan

Enclosure

cc: Governor Bill Haslam

Hanseul Kang, Chief of Staff

Provisions Waived Through Approval of Tennessee’s

Request for ESEA Flexibility

ESEA Section

Description

Notes

State-Level Reservation for School Improvement

1003(a)

Requires State educational agency (SEA) to reserve 4 percent of its Title I, Part A allocation for school improvement activities and to distribute at least 95 percent to local educational agencies (LEAs) for use in Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, and restructuring

The reservation is not waived; SEA may distribute section 1003(a) funds to LEAs for use in priority and focus schools

School Improvement Grants

1003(g)

Requires SEA to award School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds to LEAs with Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring

Waiver permits SEA to award SIG funds to an LEA to implement one of the four SIG models in any priority school

2013–2014 Timeline

1111(b)(2)(E) – (H)

Establishes requirements for setting annual measurable objectives (AMOs)

Waiver permits SEA to set new ambitious but achievable AMOs

Schoolwide Poverty Threshold

1114(a)(1)

Requires 40 percent poverty threshold to be eligible to operate a schoolwide program

Waiver permits LEA with less than 40 percent poverty to operate a schoolwide program in a priority school or a focus school that is implementing a schoolwide intervention

School Improvement Requirements

1116(b) (except (b)(13))

Requires LEA to identify schools for improvement, corrective action, and restructuring with corresponding requirements

1116(b)(13), which requires LEA to permit a child who has transferred to remain in the choice school through the highest grade in the school, is not waived

LEA Improvement Requirements

1116(c)(3) and (5) – (11)

Requires SEA to identify LEAs for improvement and corrective action with corresponding requirements

 

 

1116(e)

Requires SEA and LEAs to take a variety of actions to offer supplemental educational services to eligible students in schools in improvement, corrective action, restructuring

 

Reservation for State Academic Achievement Awards Program

1117(b)(1)(B)

Limits the schools that can receive Title I, Part A funds reserved for State awards program

Waiver allows funds reserved for State awards program to go to any reward school

Highly Qualified Teacher Plan Accountability Agreement Requirement

2141(c)

Requires SEA/LEA agreement on use of Title II, Part A funds for LEAs that miss AYP for three years and fail to make progress toward reaching annual objectives for highly qualified teachers

Waiver includes existing agreements and applies to restrictions on hiring paraprofessionals under Title I, Part A

Limitations on Transferability of Funds

6123(a)

Limits to 50 percent the amount an SEA may transfer from a covered program into another covered program or into Title I, Part A

Waiver applies to the percentage limitation, thereby permitting SEA to transfer up to 100 percent from a covered program

6123(b)(1)

Limits to 50 percent or 30 percent the amount an LEA may transfer from a covered program into another covered program or into Title I, Part A

Waiver applies to the percentage limitations as well as to the restrictions on the use of transferred funds

6123(d)

Requires modification of plans and notice of transfer

 

6123(e)(1)

Transferred funds are subject to the requirements of the program to which they are transferred

Waiver permits an LEA to exclude funds transferred into Title I, Part A from the base in calculating any set-aside percentages

Rural Schools

6213(b)

Requires LEAs that fail to make AYP to use funds to carry out the requirements under ESEA section 1116

 

6224(e)

Requires SEA to permit LEAs that fail to make AYP to continue to receive a Small, Rural School Achievement grant only if LEA uses funds to carry out ESEA section 1116

 

 

21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC)

4201(b)(1)(A),

4204(b)(2)(A)

Require a community learning center to provide activities during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session

Waiver permits an eligible entity to provide 21st CCLC activities to support expanded learning time during an expanded school day, week, or year in addition to activities during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session

The corresponding regulations that implement these statutory provisions are also waived. Any ESEA statutory provision not listed in this table is not waived.

Secretary’s Field Testing Flexibility Determination Letter ESEA Flexibility

January 30, 2014

The Honorable Melody Schopp
Secretary of Education
South Dakota Department of Education
800 Governors Drive
Pierre, SD 57501-2294

Dear Secretary Schopp:

I am writing in response to the South Dakota Department of Education’s (SDDE) request to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements of Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA). Specifically, SDDE has requested a one-year waiver for 2013–2014 to allow all its schools (with the exception of the Hutterite Colony schools) to field test, with respect to all students in the tested grades, assessments in mathematics and reading/language arts aligned to college- and career-ready standards developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in lieu of the State’s assessments in grades 3 through 8 and high school. In addition, SDDE has requested a one-year waiver to allow it to administer alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities developed by the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) in pilot schools in which students would take the field test in one subject and South Dakota’s alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards in the other subject. SSDE has also requested flexibility in making accountability determinations.

I am pleased to grant, pursuant to my authority under section 9401 of the ESEA, a one-year waiver of the following statutory and regulatory requirements under Title I, Part A of the ESEA, as amended, and their associated regulatory provisions:

  • ESEA sections 1111(b)(1)(B) and 1111(b)(3)(C)(i), which require the State educational agency (SEA) to apply the same academic achievement standards, and to use the same academic assessments, for all public school children in the State. SDDE requested these waivers so that any individual student within South Dakota will be required to take only one assessment in each content area in 2013–2014 — that is, the full form of the field test of the new SBAC assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards (with the exception of the Hutterite Colony schools), the field test of the NCSC alternate assessment in pilot schools, or the current State alternate assessment in the case of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who do not take the NCSC field test.
  • ESEA section 1111(b)(3)(C)(xii), which requires the provision of individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports that include information regarding achievement on State assessments to parents, teachers, and principals as soon as is practically possible after an assessment is given. SDDE requested this waiver to permit SDDE and its local educational agencies (LEAs) to refrain from producing or providing these reports for a student’s performance on a field test.
  • ESEA sections 1111(h)(1)(C)(ii) and 1111(h)(2)(B), which require an SEA and LEA, respectively, to report on performance against annual measurable objectives (AMOs). SDDE requested these waivers to permit SDDE and its LEAs to refrain from reporting performance against AMOs for any schools or LEAs, because all schools are participating in the field test of the new SBAC assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards.

This waiver is granted to the SDDE on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:

  • The SDDE and its LEAs will ensure that all students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in the tested grades who do not take the NCSC field test in a particular subject will take the current State alternate assessment in that subject, as required by the ESEA.
  • The SDDE and its LEAs will report performance against AMOs for a subject that is not being field tested in a school that participates in the field test, for all schools that do not participate in the field test, and for all LEAs (except single-school LEAs that participate in the field test of a tested subject).
  • The SDDE and its LEAs will meet all reporting obligations with respect to reporting the actual achievement of students in the Hutterite Colony schools and students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take the current State assessments or its alternates.
  • The SDDE has properly notified all LEAs and schools that they will participate in the SBAC field test as well as those that will participate in the pilot of the NCSC field test.
  • The SDDE will ensure that parents of students have been notified of the school’s participation in the respective field tests, including by ensuring that the notification to parents includes a discussion of the implications of the school’s participation in the field tests and, for parents of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, a notification of whether the parents’ child will participate in the NCSC field test.
  • In the 2014–2015 school year, the SDDE will administer the new reading/language arts and mathematics assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards, as well as its State science assessments, to all students in the grades required to be tested in accordance with the ESEA.

Please be aware that this waiver of requirements related to South Dakota’s standards and assessment system under the ESEA is not a determination that the system 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. This waiver does not apply to statutory and regulatory requirements regarding science assessments under Title I, Part A of the ESEA.

I hope you find this flexibility helpful. I look forward to working with you and your staff as you implement this flexibility and as you continue working to improve education in South Dakota.

Sincerely,

/s/

Deborah S. Delisle

cc: Abby Javurek-Humig

Rhode Island Flexibility Extension Approval Letter

October 9, 2014

The Honorable Deborah A. Gist
Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
255 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903

Dear Commissioner Gist:

This letter is in response to Rhode Island’s May 12, 2014 request for a one-year extension of flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA flexibility), so that Rhode Island may continue to implement ESEA flexibility through the end of the 2014–2015 school year.

Our team has reviewed Rhode Island’s request and, pursuant to section 9401(d)(2) of the ESEA, I am pleased to extend Rhode Island’s ESEA flexibility request for one year, through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. My decision to extend Rhode Island’s ESEA flexibility request is based on my determination that ESEA flexibility has been effective in enabling Rhode Island to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement and that this extension is in the public interest. I have also determined that Rhode Island’s monitoring next steps have been adequately addressed through submission of documentation and other information, including high-quality plans for implementation in the 20142015 school year. This letter also provides my approval of the amendments to Principles 1 and 2 that Rhode Island proposed that align with the requirements of ESEA flexibility. A summary of Rhode Island’s approved amendments is enclosed with this letter, and Rhode Island’s amended request will be posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) website.

This extension is subject to Rhode Island’s commitment to continue working with ED on Rhode Island’s requested amendments to its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. Rhode Island’s progress in implementing its approved ESEA flexibility request during the 2014–2015 school year, as well as Rhode Island’s continued work with ED on its requested amendments to Principle 3, will inform ED’s decision regarding renewal of Rhode Island’s ESEA flexibility after the 2014–2015 school year.

Rhode Island continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility. These laws include 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, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

I am confident that Rhode Island will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. If you need any additional assistance to implement your ESEA flexibility request, please do not hesitate to contact Todd Stephenson of my staff at: todd.stephenson@ed.gov.

Thank you for your commitment and continued focus on enhancing education for all of Rhode Island’s students.

Sincerely,

/s/

Deborah S. Delisle
Assistant Secretary

Enclosure

cc: David V. Abbott, Deputy Commissioner/General Counsel

Approved Amendments to Rhode Island’s ESEA Flexibility Request

The following is a summary of approved amendments to Rhode Island’s ESEA flexibility request. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) approves these amendments because Rhode Island’s ESEA flexibility request, as amended, continues to be aligned with the principles of ESEA flexibility. Please refer to ED’s website (www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility) for Rhode Island’s complete ESEA flexibility request.

  • State-Developed Recognition, Accountability, and Support System (2.A.i)
  • Revision: Rhode Island amended its request to clarify the number of consecutive years a school must miss the same Annual Measurable Objective (AMO) before being placed into the Warning classification.

    Revision: Rhode Island amended its request to indicate that AMO targets will be reset following school year 2014-2015 based on the baseline data from the new assessments.

    Revision: Rhode Island amended its request to indicate that for the 2015−2016 accountability cycle priority and focus schools will hold the same classification as the 2014−2015 school year, and no new schools will be identified as Warning, Typical, or Leading. Rhode Island indicated that it will continue to ensure that its local educational agencies (LEAs) are providing incentives and supports to Warning schools identified in the 2014−2015 school year.

    Revision: Rhode Island amended its request to indicate that during the 2014−2015 school year, elementary, middle, and high schools will not use one of the seven metrics that make up a school’s index score. Specifically, schools will not be assigned points based on their progress to 2017 targets, and the ten points assigned to that metric will be reapportioned proportionately across the remaining metrics.

    Priority Schools (Principle 2.D)

    Revision: Changes the priority school exit criteria. In addition to other measures, a priority school must meet 80 percent of its AMOs—including all missed targets substantially contributing to the school’s original priority status—in order to exit. Please note that ED will examine the impact of this change when reviewing Rhode Island’s request for renewal of ESEA flexibility in the spring of 2015.

  • Focus Schools (Principle 2.E)
  • Revision: Rhode Island amended its request to indicate that it will monitor focus schools quarterly, versus bi-annually.

    Revision: Changes the focus school exit criteria. In addition to other measures, a school must meet 80 percent of its AMOs—including all missed targets contributing to the school’s original focus status—in order to exit. Please note that ED will examine the impact of this change when reviewing Rhode Island’s request for renewal of ESEA flexibility in the spring of 2015.

  • Provide Incentives and Supports to Other Title I Schools (Principle 2.F)
  • Revision: Rhode Island amended its request to clarify the number of schools identified as Warning schools for the 2012−2013 school year, and to provide additional detail about expanded monitoring efforts for these schools.

    Secretary’s ESEA Flexibility Renewal 12-2014 Letter to the Chiefs

    December 15, 2014

    Dear Chief State School Officer:

    In September 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) offered each State educational agency (SEA) the opportunity to request flexibility on behalf of itself and its local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools. This voluntary opportunity provided educators and State and local leaders with flexibility from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive State-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. SEAs have used this flexibility to design and implement State-specific, innovative, locally appropriate strategies to address their most pressing education challenges and enhance support to educators and students.

    On November 13, 2014, I invited each SEA with an approved ESEA flexibility request that will expire at the end of the 2014–2015 school year to request a three-year renewal of ESEA flexibility, through the 2017–2018 school year. SEAs that were approved to implement ESEA flexibility beginning in the 2012–2013 school year (Windows 1 and 2) that are meeting their commitments to the original timelines and principles of ESEA flexibility are eligible for a four-year renewal through the 2018–2019 school year and are invited to participate in an expedited review process.

    To support an SEA in developing a request for renewal of ESEA flexibility and in implementing an approved request, ED has prepared the attached Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). I encourage an SEA interested in requesting renewal of ESEA flexibility to consider these FAQs as it develops its request. Further, as the FAQs presume familiarity with the Renewal Guidance and the Renewal Form, I encourage you and your staff to review those documents carefully, and to have them available when reading through the attached FAQs.

    Although it is important to review all of the FAQs, I want to highlight a few key areas that warrant particular attention:

    • Section B, Evaluation: As described in the ESEA Flexibility Renewal Guidance, given the range of SEA and LEA strategies being implemented under ESEA flexibility, ED is interested in working with SEAs to evaluate and learn from different State and local approaches, including providing some funding for such evaluations. Section B of the FAQs provides additional information about the process by which an SEA may propose and receive up to $1 million per year for up to four years to participate in an evaluation. Please note that an SEA may request and receive approval of its ESEA flexibility renewal request for a fourth year, through the 2018–2019 school year, if a funded evaluation would benefit from an additional year of implementation.
    • Question E-3, “Pause” of Annual School Ratings or Grades Under State Systems: As SEAs are looking ahead to new college- and career-ready assessments, a number of SEAs have asked if ED would permit them to amend their ESEA flexibility request to “pause” schools in their current rating or grade for the 2015-2016 school year, under their state system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support. Question E-3 states that an SEA may propose such a “pause” of the implementation of a school grading or rating system through its renewal request, and explains what an SEA must provide in amending its ESEA flexibility request to reflect this change.
    • Section F, Principle 3 (Teacher and Principal Evaluation and Support Systems): As described in the ESEA Flexibility Renewal Guidance, each SEA must choose one option under Assurance 15 based on the current status of its implementation of teacher and principal evaluation and support systems under Principle 3. Different options exist for SEAs at varying stages of implementation. Section F of the FAQs provides greater detail about how an SEA should choose the appropriate option and what, if any, additional information the SEA will need to include in its renewal request in Principle 3.

    ED will continue to provide technical assistance throughout the renewal process, including conducting a webinar to discuss the FAQs on Thursday, December 18th. That webinar will be an opportunity for you and your staff to ask questions and gain clarity about the ESEA flexibility renewal process. We will also post the webinar on the ESEA flexibility page of ED’s website.

    Should you have any questions regarding ESEA flexibility or the renewal process, please do not hesitate to reach out to your ESEA flexibility State contact or to send questions by e-mail to eseaflexibility@ed.gov.

    Thank you for your commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students in your State and for supporting educators in this important work. I look forward to our continued partnership.

    Sincerely,

    /s/

    Deborah S. Delisle
    Assistant Secretary

    Enclosure
    Frequently Asked Questions

    Secretary’s Extension Approval Letter (Puerto Rico ) ESEA Flexibility

    September 19, 2014

    The Honorable Rafael Román Meléndez
    Secretary of Education
    Puerto Rico Department of Education
    P.O. Box 190759
    San Juan, PR 00919

    Dear Secretary Román Meléndez:

    I am writing in response to Puerto Rico’s April 28, 2014 request for a one-year extension of flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA flexibility), so that Puerto Rico may continue to implement ESEA flexibility through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. Currently, Puerto Rico’s ESEA flexibility request is approved subject to several conditions.

    Our team has reviewed Puerto Rico’s request and, pursuant to section 9401(d)(2) of the ESEA, I am pleased to extend Puerto Rico’s ESEA flexibility request for one year, through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. My decision to extend Puerto Rico’s ESEA flexibility request is based on my determination that ESEA flexibility has been effective in enabling Puerto Rico to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement and that this extension is in the public interest. As discussed below, I have also determined that one of the four conditions placed on the initial approval of Puerto Rico’s ESEA flexibility request has been adequately addressed and is removed. The other conditions remain in place.

    The following conditions were placed on Puerto Rico’s ESEA flexibility request on October 22, 2013:

    1. Puerto Rico must resolve all outstanding compliance findings for the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program and Title III of the ESEA by June 1, 2014
    2. Puerto Rico must submit a high-quality plan by December 31, 2013, which must be approved by the U. S. Department of Education (ED), for resolving the outstanding monitoring and audit findings of ED programs delineated in the enclosure to my November 13, 2013 letter and include in the plan interim goals for the 2013–2014 school year
    3. Puerto Rico must submit by December 31, 2013 to ED, for review and approval, an amended ESEA flexibility request incorporating final guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility
    4. Puerto Rico must confer with ED on a quarterly basis (every three months from October 22, 2013) regarding its implementation of ESEA flexibility and progress toward the above conditions

    To meet the second condition, Puerto Rico submitted four high-quality plans to address outstanding monitoring and audit findings. ED approved these plans, so the second condition has been satisfied and is removed.

    The other three conditions remain in place. With regard to the first condition, on April 17, 2014, ED extended Puerto Rico’s deadline to resolve outstanding SIG and Title III findings to October 31, 2014. As a result of the extension, this condition remains. With regard to the fourth condition, Puerto Rico conferred with ED through written quarterly updates supported by teleconference calls. Although I appreciate Puerto Rico’s consistent efforts in providing quarterly updates, I am maintaining this condition to ensure that Puerto Rico implements its ESEA flexibility request in a high-quality manner and continues to make progress toward resolution of the remaining conditions.

    With regard to the third condition that Puerto Rico submit final guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility, I know that Puerto Rico has submitted its guidelines for review. However, because peer review of those guidelines has not yet occurred, I am leaving the condition in place for the time being. Based upon the peer review scheduled for October 14-15, 2014, if ED determines that Puerto Rico’s guidelines meet the requirements of Principle 3 of ESEA flexibility, I will remove the condition at that time.

    This extension is subject to Puerto Rico’s commitment to continue working with ED to resolve any issues regarding its Principle 3 guidelines raised through the peer review process. Puerto Rico’s continued work with ED through the Principle 3 approval process, resolution of the first condition described above, implementation of its high-quality plan to resolve the second condition described above, as well as PRDE’s progress in implementing ESEA flexibility, will inform ED’s decision regarding renewal of Puerto Rico’s ESEA flexibility after the 2014–2015 school year.

    This letter also provides my approval of amendments to Principle 1 and Principle 2 of Puerto Rico’s ESEA flexibility request, presented through Puerto Rico’s request for extension. A summary of Puerto Rico’s approved amendments is enclosed with this letter, and Puerto Rico’s amended request will be posted on ED’s website.

    Puerto Rico continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it is in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility. These laws include 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, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

    I am confident that Puerto Rico will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools accountable for the achievement of all students. If you need any additional assistance to implement your ESEA flexibility request, please do not hesitate to contact Susan Wilhelm of my staff at: susan.wilhelm@ed.gov.

    Thank you for your commitment and continued focus on enhancing education for all of Puerto Rico’s students.

    Sincerely,

    /s/

    Deborah S. Delisle
    Assistant Secretary

    Enclosure

    cc: Enid Madera, Interim Director of Federal Affairs