Thursday, October 2, 2008

Adequate Yearly Progress

One of the requirements of No Child Left Behind is that schools make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The US Department of Education defines AYP as follows.

Under No Child Left Behind, each state has developed and implemented measurements for determining whether its schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) are making adequate yearly progress (AYP). AYP is an individual state's measure of progress toward the goal of 100 percent of students achieving to state academic standards in at least reading/language arts and math. It sets the minimum level of proficiency that the state, its school districts, and schools must achieve each year on annual tests and related academic indicators. Parents whose children are attending Title I (low-income) schools that do not make AYP over a period of years are given options to transfer their child to another school or obtain free tutoring (supplemental educational services).

Of course, the goal of 100% of students (including ELL and special education students) achieving state academic standards is impossible. According to MassPartners for Public Schools, 74% of public schools in Massachusetts will fail to meet AYP by 2014. Since Massachusetts tends toward the top in various categories of academic achievement the situation will be worse in other states.

In the meantime, parents who children attend low income schools that do not meet AYP over a period of years can elect to transfer their children to another school or obtain free tutoring. But not all parents can take advantage of the possibility of transferring to other schools. Some schools find that only parents with means can easily arrange to move their children to other schools.

But what’s ridiculous about the demand for AYP is that it fails to recognize the extraordinary challenges that some schools face. Schools with large ELL and special education populations will have little chance to meet the standard of 100% proficiency (if students meet the standard for proficiency it seems unlikely they qualify for special education. The same is true for ELL students).

Yesterday I heard about a school which serves new immigrants that has failed to meet AYP goals for at least two years and now faces being reorganized. The principal and teachers are being told that they have failed their students because they have been unable to get students who speak little if any English when they arrive at the school to reach academic proficiency. Certainly these teachers and the principal should be held accountable to some standard but not the standard of academic proficiency. This is grossly unfair and points to the urgency of revising (or scrapping) at least some of the provisions of No Child Left Behind.