Under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), U.S. public schools and school districts must make adequate yearly progress (AYP), as determined by the percentage of the schools’ or districts’ students that score proficient on state-specified tests and other performance indicators. Various interventions are imposed on schools and districts that repeatedly fail to make AYP. The NCLB goal is that all students will score proficient on tests in specified academic courses by 2014.
According to an April 28, 2011 report by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), 38 percent of U.S. public schools failed to make AYP in 2010. The percentage is five points above the 2009 rate, making it the largest one-year increase since AYP data became available in 2006. The CEP report states that, overall, the national percentage of schools failing to make AYP changed modestly from year-to-year, going from 29 percent in 2006 and increasing to 38 percent by 2010.
Data included in the CEP report reflects that the 2010 AYP failure rate by individual states varied widely, with 91 percent in the District of Columbia, 86 percent in Florida, 61 percent in California, 28 percent in Connecticut, and 5 percent in Texas, as examples. According to the report, at least half of the public schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia did not make AYP. In March, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan predicted that over 80 percent of U.S. schools will fail to meet AYP in 2011; however, an April 28th Education Week article online quoted a CEP executive as stating that such a large increase seems “very unlikely.”
The CEP is an independent nonprofit organization that has monitored national AYP data over the past five years. Copies of the April 28th CEP report and its companion background paper can be downloaded from the CEP website http://www.cep-dc.org/.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) included the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, which was intended to help improve the nation’s lowest-performing schools, those schools that persistently fail to meet AYP. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) re-energized the SIG program with $3 billion in funding, but added restrictions on how school improvements can be made. According to an April 27, 2011 Education Week article, over 730 schools across the country participate in the SIG program, but some efforts may be hampered by the restrictions included in ARRA.
ARRA requires the use of one of four models to turn around persistently low-performing schools – Turnaround, Closure, Closure and Reopen as a Charter, or Transformation. The models often involve firing principals and/or teachers. According to the April 27th Education Week article, Transformation is the most popular model because it promotes the development of reforms such as measuring teacher performance based on a student’s academic growth, rather than solely on test scores, and extending students’ learning time. Implementing the reforms is often challenging due to factors such as collective bargaining agreements, student bus schedules, and finding effective teachers and principals willing to work in low-performing schools. The article provides an example of a Turnaround school (required to fire half of its teachers) having to select new teachers from a pool of teachers that had been fired from other Turnaround schools in the district. Despite the hurdles, Education Week reported that school officials in various states indicated that they are “pleased overall with the progress they’re beginning to observe.”
PCG Education offers web-based tools and professional consulting services to enhance teachers’ performance, improve student academic achievement and turn around some of the nation’s lowest-performing schools.