August 6, 2004
Honorable Inez M. Tenenbaum
State Superintendent of Education
South Carolina Department of Education
1006 Rutledge Building
1429 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Dear Superintendent Tenenbaum:
I am writing in response to South Carolina's request to amend its state accountability plan under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Following our discussions with your staff, those changes that are aligned with NCLB are now included in an amended state accountability plan that South Carolina submitted to the Department on June, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to fully approve South Carolina’s amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
Additionally, based on information you have provided us, regarding the actions taken by the South Carolina Department of Education to finalize certain elements in the accountability plan required under NCLB, South Carolina has met the conditions of approval that were detailed in Ron Tomalis' September 5, 2003 letter to South Carolina.
If, over time, South Carolina makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, South Carolina must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval, as required by section 1111(f)(2) of Title I. Approval of South Carolina's accountability plan is not also an approval of South Carolina's standards and assessment system. As South Carolina makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, South Carolina must submit information about those changes to the Department for peer review through the standards and assessment process.
Please also be aware that approval of South Carolina’s accountability plan for Title I, including the amendments approved above, 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 hope that you have found the accountability plan amendment process effective for implementing a state accountability system that best serves the needs of South Carolina's students and schools and that will lead to improving the academic achievement of all students. As evidenced by the diversity among state accountability plans and state consolidated applications, States have great flexibility in the design of their systems and implementation of particular NCLB provisions. If, as you implement your accountability plan, you find additional elements of your plan that you believe should be refined or amended for next school year to best serve the needs of your students and schools, I encourage you to explore all the areas of flexibility available to your State.
In addition to the flexibility available to States in the design and implementation of their accountability plans, I also encourage you and your districts to utilize the additional flexibility available for the administration and operation of NCLB programs. NCLB continued the flexibility available to States and districts under the 1994 reauthorization of the ESEA, including the ability to consolidate State and local administrative funds (sections 9201 and 9203), to operate schoolwide programs (section 1114), and to participate in the Education Flexibility Partnership Program ("Ed-Flex"). Additionally, NCLB created several new flexibility options for States and districts for the operation of federal programs. These new flexibility provisions include the State Flexibility Authority (sections 6141 through 6144), the Local Flexibility Demonstration program (sections 6151 through 6156), Transferability (sections 6121 through 6123), and the Rural Education Achievement program (sections 6201 through 6234). These flexibilities truly offer States and districts the ability to target federal resources to their unique and individual needs.
I am confident that South Carolina will continue to advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. I wish you well in your school improvement efforts. If I can be of any additional assistance to South Carolina in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
cc: Governor Mark Sanford
Amendments to the South Carolina Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the South Carolina Accountability plan on the Department's website: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html
Including all schools (Element 1.1)
Revision: South Carolina will use feeder pattern determinations for the pre-kindergarten centers and prekindergarten through grade two schools in the state. These schools will be identified for improvement if more than half the feeder schools to which these students attend are also identified for improvement.
Including all schools (Element 1.2)
Revision: South Carolina has identified two types of schools that will receive a one-year transition period before AYP results are counted towards school improvement. These schools are new schools and schools that have been reconstituted, where the reconstitution represents at least a change in the student body of 50% or more.
Timely identifications (Element 1.4, 1.5)
Revision: South Carolina has clarified its timeline for making AYP decisions.
Reporting (Element 1.5)
Revision: South Carolina will release achievement results and school improvement information through the State's report card at the beginning of the academic year. The remaining items on the report card will be available no later than November 15th.
Rewards and Sanctions (Element 1.6)
Revision: South Carolina will direct State improvement or intervention services to schools on the basis of the elements that were involved in identifying a school for improvement. This 'tier' approach to services will help South Carolina maximize their resources.
Definition of full academic year (Element 2.2)
Revision: South Carolina’s definition of full academic year will include only those students who have been continuously enrolled from the 45th day of school until the day of testing.
Determining AYP (Element 3.2, 5.2)
Revision: South Carolina will add a standard error of measure to the calculation of individual student scores.
Amendment with respect to same subject identification (Element 4.1)
Revision: South Carolina will identify schools for improvement on the basis of not making AYP for two consecutive years in the same subject.
Minimum number of students with disabilities and LEP students (Element 5.2)
Revision: South Carolina has established 50 as the minimum group size for special education students and limited English proficient students in its AYP decisions.
Use of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (Element 5.4)
Revision: South Carolina indicates it will apply the alternate assessment regulation to students who take an alternate assessment or an 'out of level' test. South Carolina also provides its methodology for assigning any scores above the 1% proficient cap that need to be included in AYP calculations as 'not proficient.'
Assessing LEP students (Element 5.4)
Revision: South Carolina will include the flexibility that the Secretary's letter of February 20, 2004 provides relative to limited English proficient students for assessment and accountability purposes.
Uniform Averaging Procedure (Element 7.1, 7.2)
Revision: South Carolina will average data from the current or previous one and two years when determining whether a high school made AYP for the graduation rate, or an elementary and middle school made AYP for the attendance rate.
Participation rate (Elements 6.1 and 10.1)
Revision: South Carolina indicates it will adopt the new flexibility regarding students who have medical emergencies during the testing window and its affect on a school's participation rate. South Carolina will adopt the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate.