Page 2 – Honorable James Horne
With regard to one issue in Florida’s accountability plan, the Secretary has exercised his authority to permit the orderly transition from requirements under the Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA) to NCLB.
Florida currently allows local educational agencies to choose an alternate assessment for studentswith the most significant cognitive disabilities that is based on different achievement standardsfrom those applicable to all other students. Florida proposed to include students with disabilitiesin its accountability system based on their performance on these local assessments. Section 200.1of the final Title I regulations requires that all students be held to the same grade levelachievement standards. In addition, §200.6(a)(2)(ii) of those regulations states that “[a]lternateassessments must yield results for the grade in which the student is enrolled.”We have issued new proposed regulations that would permit a State to use alternate achievementstandards to measure the achievement of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities(refer to the Federal Register notice of March 20, 2003). For this transition year only, while these proposed regulations are being finalized, Florida may use alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take an alternate assessment tocalculate adequate yearly progress (AYP) for schools and districts. Those alternate achievementstandards must be aligned with Florida’s academic content standards and reflect professional judgment of the highest learning standards possible for those students. Moreover, the percentageof students held to alternate achievement standards at district and State levels may not exceed 1.0 percent of all students in the grades assessedWe note that this transition policy is not intended to preempt the rulemaking process or thestandards and assessment peer review process, and that the final regulations may reflect adifferent policy and/or a different percentage.Florida’s plan also contains additions to Florida’s standards and assessments that have not been fullyapproved by the Department under the IASA. Because these changes were not part of Florida’s standardsand assessments that were reviewed by the Department under the IASA, Florida must submit evidence tothe Department for peer review through the standards and assessment process. Specifically,
Assessing limited English proficient students.The final Title I regulations provide that a Statemust include limited English proficient (LEP) students in its assessment system using either theState’s standards-based assessments, with or without accommodations, or native languageassessments [§200.6(b)]. Florida assesses most LEP students with the FCAT, with or withoutaccommodations. The remaining LEP students take an alternate assessment selected by a localcommittee. Florida may use local assessments in this manner, provided they meet the criteriaoutlined in Section 200.3(c) of the final Title I regulations. Florida must show, through thestandards and assessment peer review process, how its use of local assessments meets thesecriteria.
Assessing students with disabilities.Similar to LEP students, Florida uses local assessments tomeasure the achievement of a small group of students with disabilities. Florida may use localassessments in this manner, provided they meet the criteria outlined in Section 200.3(c) of thefinal Title I regulations. Florida must show, through the standards and assessment peer review process, how its use of local assessments meets these criteria.As required by section 1111(b)(2) of Title I, Florida must implement its accountability plan during thisschool year to identify schools and school districts in need of improvement and to implement section 1116