October 24, 2014
The Honorable Carolyn Dumaresq
Acting Secretary of Education
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17128-0333
Dear Acting Secretary Dumaresq:
This letter is in response to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) request for a one-year extension of flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA flexibility), so that PDE may continue to implement ESEA flexibility through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. Currently, PDE’s ESEA flexibility is approved subject to the condition that: (1) PDE provide to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) the final regulations it adopts for its principal evaluation and support systems and evidence that those regulations include student growth data as a significant factor in determining performance levels for principals; and (2) PDE submit to ED, before the end of the 2013–2014 school year, data demonstrating that PDE’s teacher evaluation and support systems differentiate among teachers who make significantly different contributions to student growth.
Our team has reviewed PDE’s request and, pursuant to section 9401(d)(2) of the ESEA, I am pleased to extend PDE’s ESEA flexibility request through the end of the 2014–2015 school year. My decision to extend PDE’s ESEA flexibility request is based on my determination that ESEA flexibility has been effective in enabling PDE to carry out important reforms to improve student achievement and that this extension is in the public interest.
PDE has provided information to address both aspects of the condition on its ESEA flexibility request. First, PDE submitted to ED its final regulations for its principal evaluation and support systems. PDE’s regulations, however, do not include student growth as a significant factor in determining performance levels for principals. Accordingly, PDE’s regulations for principal evaluation and support systems do not yet meet the elements of Principle 3 of ESEA flexibility.
Second, on June 17, 2014, PDE submitted to ED an analysis, conducted by the SAS Institute, of teacher ratings in Pennsylvania based on simulated data. Those data, however, do not clearly demonstrate that PDE’s teacher evaluation and support systems regulations result in sufficient differentiation among teachers who have made significantly different contributions to student growth or closing achievement gaps.
Accordingly, I am continuing the conditions on PDE’s ESEA flexibility request. Consistent with my letter dated August 20, 2014, this extension is subject to PDE’s commitment to continue working with ED on Principle 3. PDE’s progress in implementing its approved ESEA flexibility request during the 2014–2015 school year, as well as PDE’s continued work with ED on Principle 3, will inform ED’s decision regarding renewal of PDE’s ESEA flexibility after the 2014–2015 school year.
On October 21, 2014, PDE submitted to ED proposed amendments to its approved ESEA flexibility request. ED will review the proposed amendments and approve those changes that align with the principles of ESEA flexibility.
PDE 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, as well as their implementation of all other Federal education programs. 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 PDE 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 have any questions regarding the implementation of PDE’s ESEA flexibility request, please do not hesitate to contact Erin Shackel at Erin.Shackel@ed.gov. Thank you for working to ensure that all of Pennsylvania’s students receive a high quality education.
Deborah S. Delisle
cc: Rita Perez, Pennsylvania Department of Education
David Volkman, Pennsylvania Department of Education