A July 27, 2011 Education Week article reported that states are beginning to release data on the number of their respective schools that met adequate yearly progress (AYP) last year – and state officials are concerned. Nearly 87 percent of New Mexico schools failed to meet AYP and 37 percent of Georgia schools failed. Preliminary data show that a significant number of North Carolina and Louisiana schools did not meet AYP. These failures are believed to be the result of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirement for states to periodically raise academic standards as necessary for the state to achieve 100% student proficiency in reading and math by 2014. Student achievement, as measured under NCLB, is not keeping up with the rising academic standards. One state official was quoted as saying “Every state is facing this and the bottom line is, in the realities of 2014, I don’t think anybody thinks we’ll get there.” According an August 1 Education Week article, Michigan has requested ED to waive the proficiency requirement for ten years.
As the start of the 2012 school year draws near with no rewrite of NCLB in sight, some states have expressed their intent to ignore or seek waivers of the NCLB requirement to increase AYP benchmarks. According to the July 27 Education Week article, Idaho, Montana and South Dakota have notified the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that they do not intend to increase AYP benchmarks as required by NCLB. Kentucky and New Mexico are requesting ED to grant waivers to allow alternative methodologies for determining AYP. According to an August 1 Associated Press article, Tennessee is seeking ED’s permission to use its own accountability standards instead of those mandated by NCLB. An August 1 Education Week article reported that ED granted a waiver to Idaho on July 27th allowing the state to retain its current AYP benchmarks for another year; without the waiver, an estimated 150 Idaho schools would have been added to the “needs improvement” category under NCLB.
In addition to concerns about increases in the number of schools that fail to meet AYP, state officials are expecting to see drastic drops in high school graduation rates due to federally mandated changes in how the rates are calculated. A July 27, 2011 article by the Associated Press quoted an ED spokesperson as saying that graduation rates will soon appear to decrease “across the board” as states move to a uniform calculation that requires them to track each student individually, giving a more accurate count of how many actually finish high school. ED Secretary Arne Duncan said “Through this uniform method, states are raising the bar on data standards, and simply being more honest.”