Dec 042013

By Julie Wiessner
The U.S. Department of Education placed Arizona on high-risk status last week for not meeting two conditions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility plan. The two conditions have separate requirements that Arizona must meet and meet them soon. Both conditions have a 60-day response deadline from Nov. 25.
For the first condition, Arizona must provide a high quality plan including steps the state will take to finalize its letter grading system, and include a college and career ready index including supporting data.
It must also show that schools with low graduation rates do not receive high ratings in that system.
Arizona’s plan must show the final version of its letter grading system and supply supporting data for that system.
For the second condition, according to federal officials, Arizona did not include a definition of student growth consistent with ESEA flexibility’s definition concerning using certain student scores on required assessments for teacher and principal evaluations.
To rectify the situation, Arizona must outline how it will finalize guidelines for using student scores as a significant factor of teacher and principal evaluations, as well as supporting data that show student growth. There must also be sufficient weighting to illustrate that performance levels will differentiate among teachers and principals who have made different contributions to student growth. That data must include three sub-requirements.
Arizona must also show how local school districts will include the state’s final method for using student growth in time for the districts to fully implement that plan for the 2014-15 school year.
Beginning this month, Arizona will give monthly updates to the U.S. Department of Education on its progress, and by May 1, 2014, submit the following for review: an amended request including the state education agency’s final guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations including use of student growth; business rules defining groups of teachers under Arizona’s final guidelines for teacher evaluation and support system, and explain how student growth is calculated for a group of teachers; and supporting data outlined in a high-quality plan.
This response from federal officials came after Arizona submitted letters dated July 26, Sept. 3 and Nov. 14 requesting an extension of its ESEA flexibility plan.
Arizona’s request is approved through the end of the 2013-14 school year if it submits the abovementioned information.
Federal officials noted that if Arizona asks for any other extension, they would not be able to grant it until the previously mentioned issues are resolved prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year.
The state may request reconsideration of its high-risk designation by submitting in writing no later than Dec. 11 the reasons why and specific facts to support its position.