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TEA Correspondence

A Microsoft Word version of this letter is available for download and PRINTING.

WAIVER AVAILABILITY

January 22, 2010

TO THE ADMINISTRATOR ADDRESSED:

SUBJECT: Request for Waivers from USDE Regarding Texas Title I Priority Schools Grant Program - School Improvement Grant Funds Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has released guidance on the opportunity for the state to request waivers applicable to the Section 1003(g) School Improvement Grant funding.  This is notify you of the state’s intent to apply for the waivers listed below on behalf of local education agencies (LEAs) eligible for the Title I Priority Schools competitive grant program for the 2009-2010 cycle of grants.

Background
The Title I Priority Schools Grant Program is funded with federal School Improvement Grant funds, authorized under section 1003(g) of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (Title I or ESEA).  These grants, through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to LEAs, are for use in Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to use the funds to provide adequate resources in order to raise substantially the achievement of their students so as to enable the schools to make adequate yearly progress and exit improvement status.  Under the final requirements published by USDE in the Federal Register in December 2009, these funds are to be focused on the State’s persistently lowest-achieving Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring (“Tier I schools”) and, at an LEA’s option, persistently-lowest achieving secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I, Part A funds (“Tier II schools”).  The lists of "persistently lowest-achieving" schools, identified and posted to the web site as required by the USDE final regulations under ARRA, and the definition methodology are available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=7354&menu_id=798

The schools listed, along with other schools to be identified in the future, will be eligible to apply for the Texas Title I Priority Schools grant to be released to LEAs later this Spring.  An LEA may also use school improvement funds in Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are not identified as persistently lowest-achieving schools (“Tier III schools”).  In the Tier I and Tier II schools an LEA chooses to serve, the LEA must implement one of four school intervention models:  turnaround model, restart model, school closure, or transformation model.

Waivers
These waivers would allow any eligible LEA that receives a Title I Priority Schools Grant to use those funds in accordance with the final requirements for School Improvement Grants and the LEA’s application for a grant. 

The State believes that the following waivers will increase the quality of instruction for students and improve the academic achievement of students in Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III schools by enabling an LEA to use more effectively the school improvement funds to implement one of the four school intervention models in its
Tier I or Tier II schools and to carry out school improvement activities in its Tier III schools.

  1. Waive section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. § 1225(b)) to extend the period of availability of school improvement funds for the State and all of its eligible LEAs to September 30, 2013.

This waiver would extend the “life” of the funds for two additional years.  This will allow the state to fund the initial grant award and two years of continuation grants to the LEAs on behalf of their eligible campuses.

  1. Waive section 1116(b)(12) of the ESEA to permit LEAs to allow their Tier I schools that will implement a turnaround or restart model to “start over” in the school improvement timeline.

Under this waiver, LEAs with eligible campuses implementing the turnaround model or restart model would have their AYP and School Improvement status reset to Meets AYP and other school improvement interventions, such as school choice and SES. This waiver gives the campus two years to effectively implement the chosen model of reform without additional school improvement interventions.

  1. Waive the 40 percent poverty eligibility threshold in section 1114(a)(1) of the ESEA to permit LEAs to implement a schoolwide program in a Tier I school that does not meet the poverty threshold.

This waiver allows a Tier I Title I campus that otherwise does not qualify to operate a Schoolwide program to do so in order to implement the Tier I reform model selected.

Comment Period
Notice of the proposed waivers will be published in the Texas Register in the next few weeks.  However, you will be able to provide comments on these proposed waivers from January 22--February 2, 2010, by electronic mail to NCLBissues@tea.state.tx.us or by postal mail to:
            Division of NCLB Program Coordination
            ATTN:  TTIPS Waivers
            1701 N. Congress Ave.
            Austin, TX  78701-1494

Once the agency reviews any comments received and makes any appropriate modifications, the waiver applications will be submitted to USDE for approval as part of the state’s application to receive the school improvement funds.  If TEA receives USDE approval of the waiver requests, additional information will be provided to LEAs on the implementation of the waivers through the Request for Application associated with this grant program.

For additional information on the proposed waiver requests, please contact Erica Coppic in the Division of NCLB Program Coordination at (512) 463-9374.

Sincerely,

Cory Green, Senior Director
Division of NCLB Program Coordination

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