Tuesday, November 07, 2006

AYP: Are You Preposterous?

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (see legislation or wikipedia article). In theory, it is a wonderful proposition focused on stronger accountability, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents.

One of the requirements of NCLB is that by 2013-14 all students meet or exceed state learning standards. In 2001, an average of about 40% of Illinois students met or exceeded state standards. In a high performing district, this might be closer to 85 %.

The graph represents Illinois' plan to reach the 100% mark by 2014.
Source: IL State Board of Ed website (I'm not sure why we take an "improvement break" between 2012 & 2013.)

Schools are held accountable in their entirety, and also within particular sub-groups.

The 9 groups considered for AYP analyses are:

1. The Entire School
2. American Indians/ Alaskan Natives
3. Asians/ Pacific Islanders
4. Hispanics
5. Black/ African Americans
6. White/ Caucasians
7. Students with an Individualized Educational Plan
8. Students of Limited English Proficiency
9. Students receiving Free or Reduced Price Lunches

If any one of the 9 groups does not meet the criteria for the AYP indicators: (participation, academic acheivement, attendance, etc...), the entire school is designated as not demonstrating Adequate Yearly Progress. In other words, in 2014, if 100% of your LEP kids, or special education kids, are not meeting or exceeding state standards, your entire school is considered "failing." (There are currently 25% of public schools considered failing in the US... and current AYP goals hover in the 40% range right now.... you predict the trend in the percentage of schools considered failing over the next five years.)

Go figure: In 2003, all special education students had to take the same state test as other students and their scores countes in their school's AYP. Shortly thereafter, the federal gov't relaxed the requirement slightly, and schools are able to exempt up to 1% of their population from taking the standardized test. This means students with severe mental retardation, autism, traumatic brain injuries, and other severe disabilities have the option to "not count" against AYP for a school. (Remember, if one subgroup fails, the entire school is labeled as failing.)

Many people argue that AYP requirements unfairly target large, diverse districts. If you have many subgroups, you have "more chances" to fail. Also, a subgroup must have at least 30 kids to "count," so smaller districts often can work around the requirements.

The consequences for not making AYP can be serious, ranging from giving students the option to transfer to another school (transportation paid for by sending school), to providing extra tutoring, to shutting down the school completely and re-opening it as a charter school or under the direction of a private firm.

By the way, right now, according to a 8.16.06 article on cnn.com, "Under the No Child Left Behind law, states were supposed to have highly qualified teachers in every core academic class by the end of the last [05-06] school year. None made it." In addition, independent studies predict that 99% of public schools will be labeled as "failing" by 2014 due to issues with AYP requirements.

Wow. Nearly a 100% failure rate. I firmly support the ideals promoted but the law, but could it be that NCLB is a bit quixotic?

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