July 25, 2006
Honorable Billy K. Cannaday, Jr.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
State Department of Education
101 North 14th Street
Richmond, Virginia 23218-2120
Dear Superintendent Cannaday:
I am writing in response to your agency's request, on behalf of seven Virginia school districts, for a flexibility agreement for the 2006-07 school year, allowing those districts to provide supplemental educational services (SES) under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), to students attending Title I schools in the first year of school improvement.
SES is a critical component of NCLB, giving low-income families real options to obtain free tutoring and other academic enrichment services for their children. This extra help for students who attend schools in need of improvement is a key element of school improvement efforts. We have learned valuable lessons about SES in these first few years of implementation. Creating and implementing a successful SES program takes coordination and cooperation by States, school districts, providers, and parents.
Unfortunately, we know that around the country, not enough eligible students are participating in SES. Therefore, in order to increase both the number of students receiving these services and the quality of services provided to students, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is expanding the SES pilot begun last year. We are allowing the four districts in Virginia that participated in the pilot last year, as well as several districts from four other States, to provide SES to students attending schools in year one of improvement. The results we have seen in the 2005-06 school year, the first year of the pilot, have been promising. For the 2006-07 school year, the pilot will continue to address two key priorities: (1) ensuring that more students are receiving SES, and (2) ensuring the provision of better information on how SES programs are improving the academic achievement of students receiving services. In addition, as with last year's pilot, we hope to gain valuable information about SES in participating districts – information that can be shared with other States and districts to help them improve the quality of these services.
The Department has reviewed Virginia's application for the 2006-07 pilot and has found that it falls short on one of the three key principles I outlined as requirements for participation in the pilot. Although Virginia provided timely notification of adequate yearly progress and has a State SES evaluation in progress, Virginia's State assessment system has been reviewed and given an Approval Pending status. Therefore, while I cannot approve Virginia's application in its entirety, I do approve the continuation of the four districts that participated in the pilot last year: Alexandria City Public Schools, Henry County Public Schools, Newport News City Public Schools, and Stafford County Public Schools.
I am approving Virginia's request for participation in the pilot by approving a flexibility agreement with the State under section 9401 of the ESEA for the 2006-07 school year for the four districts. This agreement permits the four districts to provide SES to eligible students in Title I schools in the first year of school improvement, thereby reversing the order outlined in sections 1116(b)(1)(E) and 1116(b)(5)(B) of Title I. Approval is conditioned on Virginia's fulfilling the conditions detailed in the enclosure and summarized here:
- More students participate in SES and public school choice;
- The Virginia Department of Education must provide information on the academic achievement of students receiving SES in the participating districts;
- The Virginia Department of Education must ensure parent access to SES providers in the participating districts;
- The Virginia Department of Education must ensure timely parental notification and multiple or continuous enrollment periods in the participating districts;
- The Virginia Department of Education must participate in a data exchange project with the Department; and
- The Virginia Department of Education must submit a report to the Department on the implementation of this pilot by June 30, 2007.
In addition, as required by section 9401(b)(3)(B) of the ESEA, within 30 days of the date of this letter, each participating district must provide notice and information to the public about its participation in the pilot in the manner in which it customarily provides similar notice to the public. Each district must also submit a report under section 9401(e)(1) of the ESEA to the Virginia Department of Education at the end of the 2006-07 school year that describes the district's provision of SES in Title I schools in the first year of school improvement; describes how those schools continued to provide Title I services to eligible students during that year; and evaluates the progress of the district and schools in increasing the quality of instruction and improving the academic achievement of students. Your agency must then submit a report to the Department based on the districts' reports.
This flexibility agreement applies to the provision of SES in Title I schools in the four pilot districts during the 2006-07 school year.
SES is a vital component of NCLB, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that students are accessing services and succeeding in the classroom.
cc: Honorable Timothy M. Kaine