August 27, 2004
Honorable Peter McWalters
Commissioner of Education
Rhode Island Department of Education
255 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Dear Commissioner McWalters:
I am writing in response to Rhode Island'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 Rhode Island submitted to the Department on July 22, 2004. A list of the changes is enclosed with this letter. I am pleased to fully approve Rhode Island's amended plan, which we will post on the Department's website.
If, over time, Rhode Island makes changes to the accountability plan that has been approved, Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island's accountability plan is not also an approval of Rhode Island's standards and assessment system. As Rhode Island makes changes in its standards and assessments to meet requirements under NCLB, Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island'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 Rhode Island'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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island in its efforts to implement other aspects of NCLB, please do not hesitate to call.
Cc: Governor Donald L. Carcieri
Amendments to the Rhode Island's Accountability Plan
These statements are summaries of the amendments. For complete details, please refer to the Rhode Island Accountability plan on the Department's website:www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html.
Accounting for non-participants in calculating AYP (Elements 1.3 and 3.1)
Revision: Rhode Island will assign a score of zero to students who do not participate in assessments up to the point of 95% of students being accounted for. These students will not be counted as participants.
Uniform Averaging (Elements 3.1, 4.1, and 9.2)
Revision: Rhode Island requests to allow all schools to use one or three years of data to make AYP determinations, given they have sufficient numbers of students to meet the minimum group size.
Assessment and accountability for LEP students (Element 5.4)
Revision: Rhode Island will include the flexibility that the Secretary's letter of February 20, 2004 provides relative to LEP students for assessment and accountability purposes.
Additional Indicator Target for Elementary and Middle Schools (Element 7.2)
Revision: Rhode Island requests changing its target for attendance from 90 percent to 90 percent or any improvement of two percentage points or more.
Participation Rate (Elements 10.1 and 10.2)
Revision: Rhode Island indicates that it will implement the new flexibility regarding multi-year averaging of participation rate, and the new flexibility regarding students who have medical emergencies during the testing window and its effect on a school's participation rate.