Date: August 1, 2013
The Honorable Michael Hanley
Department of Education and Early Development
PO Box 110500
Juneau, AK 99811
Dear Commissioner Hanley:
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is committed to working with Alaska to ensure full and effective implementation of your approved request for ESEA flexibility, including by providing technical assistance and monitoring the progress of implementation toward the goals set for your schools and students. Toward that end, the purpose of this letter is to provide some additional information about how to implement your approved request and how to meet certain obligations related to your request.
Waivers in ESEA Flexibility
In addition, the waivers that are included in the table enclosed with Secretary Duncan’s letter include waivers that permit Alaska or LEAs in Alaska to: operate a schoolwide program in a priority or focus school that does not meet the 40 percent poverty threshold; provide funds reserved under ESEA section 1003(a) to any priority or focus school; provide funds reserved under ESEA section 1117(c)(2)(A) to any reward school; and provide funds under ESEA section 1003(g) to any priority school that will implement one of the four School Improvement Grants (SIG) school intervention models. Please note that these waivers apply only to schools that meet the ESEA flexibility definitions of priority, focus, and reward schools, as applicable. Essentially, if Alaska identifies other schools as reward, priority, or focus schools that do not meet those definitions, these waivers would not be relevant to those additional schools. Moreover, approval of your request for ESEA flexibility does not waive any other requirements related to schoolwide programs, the reservation under ESEA section 1003(a), the provision of funds under ESEA section 1117(c)(2)(A), or the allocation of SIG funds, respectively; they merely modify the universe of schools to which those respective provisions apply.
Waivers of Requirements to Provide Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and Transportation for Public School Choice
Under ESEA flexibility, LEAs in Alaska are no longer required by Federal law to offer SES or transportation for public school choice. Alaska should have taken steps to ensure, as appropriate, that its LEAs provided parents with information regarding the termination of SES and transportation for public school choice, including an explanation of the interventions, incentives, and supports that have replaced those options.
Please note that, although LEAs are no longer obligated by Federal law to provide transportation for public school choice, a student who is already taking advantage of public school choice must be permitted to remain at his or her school of choice until he or she has completed the highest grade in that school because ESEA flexibility does not waive ESEA section 1116(b)(13). This right should have been clearly explained to parents in the information that was provided regarding the changes being made with respect to the provision of SES and public school choice.
ED recognizes that, in light of Alaska’s approved ESEA flexibility request, some elements of Alaska’s current accountability workbook do not reflect Alaska’s new system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support. To help ensure transparency and consistency of information while at the same time minimizing the burden on an SEA, ED has developed an accountability addendum, which replaces the accountability workbook of a State approved for ESEA flexibility. Together, an SEA’s approved ESEA flexibility request and its accountability addendum contain the elements of the State’s system of differentiated recognition, accountability and support. Information about the accountability addendum and a sample addendum are available on ED’s ESEA flexibility web page at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.html. Your State contact will be in touch with you to discuss the process for completing and submitting your accountability addendum for ED’s review.
Amendments to Alaska’s ESEA Flexibility Request
ED encourages Alaska to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the plans and other elements of its ESEA flexibility request as it proceeds with implementation, and to make necessary changes to address any challenges that it identifies. As a result of this process of continuous improvement, ED anticipates that Alaska might want or need to make other changes to its ESEA flexibility request.
If Alaska wishes to make changes to its ESEA flexibility request, Alaska must submit those changes to ED as early as possible for ED’s review and approval. Upon receipt of the proposed changes, ED will determine whether the changes require additional peer review. Alaska may not implement any changes to its approved request until those changes have been approved by ED. Additional information regarding the format and process for an SEA to submit a request to amend its ESEA flexibility request is available on the “Support and Technical Assistance for States” section of the ESEA flexibility webpage at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.html. With the exception of the flexibilities announced in Secretary Duncan’s June 18, 2013 letter, please note that ED does not anticipate approving any amendment that would result in a State’s no longer meeting the required timelines for implementation of ESEA flexibility.
Principle 3 Review
Alaska must submit for peer review its guidelines for its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, in accordance with Principle 3 of ESEA flexibility, once they are developed and adopted. ED will provide you with information regarding the schedule for this submission and peer review shortly.
Meaningful engagement and soliciting input from teachers and their representatives, and other diverse stakeholders, was an important part of developing Alaska’s ESEA flexibility request. Such consultation will be equally important as you continue to implement your ESEA flexibility request.
Submission of Reports, Data, and Evidence
ESEA section 9401(e)(2) requires an SEA receiving a waiver under section 9401 to report such information as the Secretary may require. In accordance with that provision and as it assured in its request, Alaska must provide ED certain reports, data, and evidence regarding its progress in implementing the plans and other elements of its approved request. Generally, SEAs are meeting this requirement primarily by providing information to ED through EDFacts/Consolidated State Performance Report, and by providing information required for ED’s monitoring of ESEA flexibility implementation.
ED has begun monitoring SEAs to ensure full and effective implementation of approved ESEA flexibility requests. ED will track Alaska’s progress and success in implementing the plans and other elements of its approved ESEA flexibility request, including alignment with the four principles and the required timelines listed in the document titled ESEA Flexibility. In particular, ED will monitor the impact of Alaska’s new accountability system to ensure that Alaska continues to provide full and specific information with respect to the performance of individual ESEA subgroups and to ensure that schools and LEAs with continued low subgroup performance are identified for appropriate interventions and supports. ED expects to begin Part A monitoring of Alaska’s implementation of ESEA flexibility at the start of the 2013–2014 school year and will provide additional information on its monitoring plans in the coming weeks.
Please note that as States’ implementation of ESEA flexibility proceeds, ED may adjust the reports, data, and evidence it needs to track implementation, as appropriate. ED will keep you apprised of any modifications.
Secretary’s Right to Terminate Waivers
Under ESEA section 9401(f), the Secretary must terminate a waiver if he determines, after notice and an opportunity for a hearing, that the performance of the entity affected by the waiver has been inadequate to justify a continuation of the waiver or if the waiver is no longer necessary to achieve its original purpose. Accordingly, the Secretary may terminate the waivers granted through ESEA flexibility if Alaska or a significant number of its LEAs do not implement Alaska’s request as approved by ED, if Alaska fails to submit in a timely manner the required reports and data, or if Alaska does not receive approval of its guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. If the waivers are terminated, Alaska and its LEAs must immediately resume complying with the requirements of current law. Similarly, if the Secretary determines not to extend or renew the waivers granted to Alaska beyond the end of the 2014–2015 school year, Alaska and its LEAs would be required to immediately resume complying with the requirements of current law in that instance, as well.
I hope you find this information helpful. Congratulations again on receiving approval of Alaska’s request for ESEA flexibility. I look forward to working with you and your staff as you implement this flexibility and as you continue working to improve education in Alaska.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Margaret MacKinnon, Department of Education and Early Development
Susan McCauley, Department of Education and Early Development