November 24, 2014
The Honorable Janet Barresi
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Oklahoma State Department of Education
2500 North Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Dear Superintendent Barresi:
Thank you for your submissions of documentation on October 16 and 23, 2014, regarding the Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards Oklahoma is implementing in the 2014–2015 school year. The documentation indicated that the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE) has reviewed these standards in English/language arts (ELA) and mathematics and determined them to be college- and career-ready standards, such that students who meet these standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level. Accordingly, pursuant to section 9401(d)(2) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), and subject to the conditions and commitment described below, I am granting Oklahoma’s request that I reinstitute Oklahoma’s authority to implement flexibility under the ESEA (ESEA flexibility) through the end of the 2014–2015 school year.
My decision to grant Oklahoma’s request is based on the determination by the OSRHE that Oklahoma’s PASS standards are college- and career- ready standards, as well as my determination that ESEA flexibility has been effective in enabling Oklahoma to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement and that granting this request is in the public interest. I have also determined that Oklahoma has adequately addressed its ESEA flexibility Part B monitoring next steps, consistent with the second condition below. Additionally, this letter provides my approval of Oklahoma’s proposed technical amendments to Principle 1 and Principle 2, and Oklahoma’s proposed substantive amendments to Principle 1 and Principle 2 summarized in the enclosure to this letter. However, please note that the proposed substantive amendment to Principle 2.B regarding Oklahoma’s annual measurable objectives remains under review and will be addressed with a separate response. Oklahoma’s amended request will be posted on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) website.
My decision to approve Oklahoma’s ESEA flexibility request through the end of the 2014–2015 school year is subject to two conditions: (1) Oklahoma must demonstrate to ED that its system of differentiated accountability, recognition, and support considers graduation rates in a meaningful way and includes differentiated interventions and supports to improve low graduation rates; and (2) Oklahoma must provide ED with evidence that it has developed and will annually administer statewide aligned, high-quality assessments that measure student growth in reading/language arts and in mathematics in at least grades 3-8 and at least once in high school in all LEAs, consistent with ESEA flexibility Principle 1.C Option C. This approval is also subject to Oklahoma’s commitment to continue working with ED on Oklahoma’s requested changes in its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems, which may require additional flexibility. I also note that in the OSRHE “Report on the Review of the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics” (October 16, 2014), the Regents’ review committees included recommendations to further strengthen the PASS standards. I also understand Oklahoma plans to develop new college- and career-ready standards for implementation in the 2016–2017 school year.
To receive approval to implement ESEA flexibility beyond the 2014–2015 school year, Oklahoma must submit to ED for review and approval, via the ESEA flexibility renewal process, an amended request that addresses the requirements for renewal as well as each condition identified above. Oklahoma’s continued work with ED on its requested changes to its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems will also inform ED’s decision regarding renewal of Oklahoma’s ESEA flexibility after the 2014–2015 school year.
Oklahoma continues to have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that it and its districts are in compliance with Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in their implementation of ESEA flexibility. These laws include 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, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
I am confident that Oklahoma will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students. If you need any additional assistance to implement your ESEA flexibility request, please do not hesitate to contact Elizabeth Ross at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to you and your staff for your ongoing commitment and continued focus on enhancing education for all of Oklahoma’s students.
cc: Richard Caram, Assistant State Superintendent