By itself, the word “adequate” isn’t particularly daunting. It doesn’t suggest anything exemplary or spectacular, nothing that would signal exceptional achievement. But pair “adequate” with “yearly progress” and you have a term that instills fear in the hearts of many in the world of public education.
Georgia earlier this month released its AYP scores, and the results weren’t particularly encouraging. Of the state’s 183 public school systems, 152 failed to meet the adequate year progress standard. Forsyth was one of those falling short of the AYP goal.
In short, AYP is the benchmark for improvement established in the federal No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001. Using a combination of standardized test scores, academic achievement and “secondary indicators,” such as graduation rates, schools and school systems are measured each year to see how they are progressing toward a deadline which requires 100 percent proficiency for all students by 2014.
In order to make AYP, is isn’t enough that the general student population of a school achieve benchmarks as an average, but certain subgroups — such as students with disabilities, or minority students — must also achieve the goals.
As the 2014 deadline nears, the targeted goals of yearly accomplishment are being raised to higher standards, and the number of schools failing to meet the standards is increasing. Last year 71 percent of Georgia schools satisfied the demands of AYP; this year the number dropped to 63 percent.
Don’t, however, think this is just another area in which Georgia looks bad when it comes to public education. The challenges of AYP exist for all states. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress back in the spring that it was possible 80 percent of schools across the nation could fail to meet AYP next year, roughly doubling this year’s expected failure rate.
The No Child Left Behind Act passed during the George W. Bush administration has been the driving force for national educational reform for a decade. Its supporters are adamant that NCLB has raised the bar for public education in a positive manner; its critics see the act as doing more harm than good, with some derisively referring to it as the No School Left Standing law.
So what does it all mean? Likely that Congress — assuming it ever gets beyond the issue of debt ceilings and credit ratings — may again dive deep into the issue of educational reform at the national level, and ultimately produce yet another direction for public education to travel.
Of NCLB, Duncan said to Congress, “This law is fundamentally broken and we need to fix it this year. It has created dozens of ways for schools to fail, and very few ways to help them succeed.”
As the likelihood increases that changes will be considered by Congress, a couple of thoughts on education reform seem obvious: too much emphasis is placed on standardized test scores as a measure of achievement, and any reform measures that ultimately expects 100 percent of students to succeed is doomed to failure unless the standards for measurement are so low as to be meaningless.
As Georgia Superintendent of Schools John Barge said, “The goal of 100 percent proficiency for all of our students by 2014 is well meaning, but because there are so many variables in the lives of children that schools cannot control, the likelihood of achieving this goal is slim.”
Expect to hear a lot more about AYP and NCLB in the months to come.