Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is a "failing school" under NCLB?

The following post was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future district administrators. I have made a slight modification to the post in which I replaced ISTEP (a high stakes accountability test in Indiana) for NJASK (the New Jersey analog). I believe this post is thoughtful and offers a fair perspective on what is meant by this designation by NCLB. -Dr. Petrosino

What is a "failing school" under NCLB?
Recent news releases continue to publicize the "failing schools" under the federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). What is a "failing school" under this law?

Essentially there are 37 ways for a school to "fail" and one way to succeed. To start with, the definition of "failing" is misleading. Under the law, "failing" means the school didn't meet its progress goals that go up each year until the goal is 100% in 2013-2014.

A school must meet its goal of all children passing NJASK tests by 2013-2014 and it must continue to have more students pass each year in order to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

In order for a school to avoid "failing" it also must have all subpopulations make progress till it makes 100%.

What are the subpopulations? Special Education students, Poverty students, Limited English students, White students, Asian students, African American students, Hispanic students, Native American students etc.

If any of these populations do not make their AYP towards 100%, than the entire school is labeled "failing."

Example: Let's say that everyone in the school passed the NJASK tests except some Special Needs students with diagnosed handicaps. And let's say their AYP goal was 80% but only 75% of the Special Needs students taking NJASK, passed it. In this scenario, the entire school would "fail."

By 2013-2014 most schools in America will be labeled "failing." Achieving perfection is certainly a noble goal to shoot for. However, labeling the entire school as a "failure" is misleading, and even disingenuous.

Picture: Dr. Mark Stock