November 8, 2012
The Honorable Michael Hanley
Alaska Department of Education & Early Development
801 West 10th Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 110500
Juneau, Alaska 99811-0500
Dear Commissioner Hanley:
Thank you for submitting Alaska’s request for ESEA flexibility. We appreciate the hard work required to transition to college- and career-ready standards and assessments; develop a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; and evaluate and support teacher and leader effectiveness. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is encouraged that Alaska and many other States are designing rigorous plans to increase the quality of instruction and improve student academic achievement.
Alaska’s request was reviewed by a panel of six peer reviewers during the week of October 1–4, 2012. During the review, the peers considered each component of Alaska’s request and provided comments in the form of Peer Panel Notes that the Secretary will use to inform any revisions to your request that may be needed to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility. The Peer Panel Notes, a copy of which is enclosed with this letter, also provide feedback on the strengths of Alaska’s request and areas that would benefit from further development. The Department’s ESEA flexibility team has also carefully reviewed Alaska’s request, taking into account the Peer Panel Notes, to determine consistency with the ESEA flexibility principles.
The peers noted, and the Department’s ESEA flexibility team agrees, that Alaska’s request was strong regarding most aspects of its plan to transition to college- and career-ready standards; alignment of interventions in priority schools with the turnaround principles; and the work to date on its teacher and leader evaluation and support system. At the same time, based on the peer reviewers’ comments and our review of the materials Alaska has provided to date, we have identified certain components of your request that need further clarification, additional development, or revision. One concern is Alaska’s timeline for transitioning to college- and career-ready standards and assessments and for implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. Also, Alaska’s request would benefit from a more detailed discussion overall of how Alaska will implement a robust differentiated recognition, accountability, and support system, particularly how it will ensure local educational agencies (LEA) with low-performing schools have adequate resources and supports to increase the quality of instruction and improve student achievement.
The enclosed list provides details regarding these concerns, as well as other key issues raised in the review of Alaska’s request, that must be addressed before the Secretary can approve your request for ESEA flexibility. We encourage Alaska to consider all of the peers’ comments and technical assistance suggestions in making revisions to its request, but we encourage you to focus primarily on addressing the concerns identified on the enclosed list.
Although the Peer Panel Notes for Alaska provide information specific to your request, Alaska may also benefit from comments and technical assistance suggestions made by other peer panels regarding issues common to multiple State educational agencies’ (SEA) requests. For this reason, Department staff will provide relevant technical assistance suggestions and other considerations raised by other peer panels that may be useful as you revise and refine your request.We remain committed to working with Alaska to meet the principles of
ESEA flexibility and improve outcomes for all students. We stand ready to work with Alaska as quickly as possible to arrive at an approvable request, and are asking SEAs to submit revisions or additional materials responding to the issues described in the enclosed list by November 30, 2012. Department staff will be in touch to set up a call next week to discuss the process for providing revisions or materials and respond to any questions you may have about how to move forward as expeditiously as possible.
You and your team deserve great credit for your efforts thus far, and I am confident that the Department’s ESEA flexibility team will work with your staff to address outstanding concerns. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Emily Mayer at 202-453-6389. Thank you for your continued commitment to all of Alaska’s children.
Deborah S. Delisle cc: Margaret McKinnon – ESEA Administrator, Division of Teaching and Learning Support