Date: November 8, 2012
Virginia M. Barry, Ph.D.
Commissioner of Education
New Hampshire Department of Education
101 Pleasant Street
Concord, New Hampshire 03301-3494
Dear Commissioner Barry:
Thank you for submitting New Hampshire’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 New Hampshire and many other States are designing rigorous plans to increase the quality of instruction and improve student academic achievement.
New Hampshire’s request was reviewed by a panel of six peer reviewers during the week of October 1-5, 2012. During the review, the peers considered each component of New Hampshire’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 New Hampshire’s request and areas that would benefit from further development. The Department’s ESEA flexibility team has also carefully reviewed New Hampshire’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 New Hampshire’s request showed strengths in the areas of implementing college- and career-ready standards and developing guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. For example, the peers noted that New Hampshire has developed a network of regional centers for the delivery of professional development related to the implementation of college- and career-ready standards, and that New Hampshire provided comprehensive timelines consistent with the development of high-quality principal and teacher evaluation systems.
At the same time, based on the peer reviewers’ comments and our review of the materials New Hampshire has provided to date, we have identified certain components of your request that need further clarification, additional development, or revision. In particular, we found concerns with respect to the following:
- The apparent exclusion of graduation rates from accountability determinations, including the identification of priority and focus schools;
- The use of a combined subgroup that could result in the masking of low performance by an individual ESEA subgroup; and
- The lack of incentives and supports for other Title I schools that are not making progress in improving student achievement, closing achievement gaps, or increasing graduation rates.
The enclosed list provides details regarding these concerns, as well as other key issues raised in the review of New Hampshire’s request, that must be addressed before the Secretary can approve your request for ESEA flexibility. We encourage New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire provide information specific to your request, New Hampshire 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 reach out to New Hampshire to provide relevant technical assistance suggestions and other considerations that may be useful as you revise and refine your request.
We remain committed to working with New Hampshire to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility and improve outcomes for all students. We stand ready to work with New Hampshire as quickly as possible. In order to ensure prompt consideration of revisions or additional materials, we are asking SEAs to submit those revisions or materials by November 30, 2012. Department staff will be in touch to set up a call as early as this week to discuss the timeline and process for providing revisions or materials.
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 Patricia Johnson at 202-260-7813. Thank you for your continued commitment to all of New Hampshire’s children.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner