Thursday, February 17, 2011

What is Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Anyway? - Letter in this Week's Hoboken Reporter

There has been a fair amount of discussion recently concerning the No Child Left Behind designation of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)- A number of readers have written me and ask that I comment. Before any discussion on the specific issues of the letter, I think it's important to understand AYP as it can be a confusing issue for some not completely familiar with the designation.

Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is a measurement defined by the United States federal No Child Left Behind Act that allows the U.S. Department of Education to determine how every public school and school district in the country is performing academically according to results on standardized tests.

It is important to realize that SCHOOLS receive the designation of "passing" or "failing" AYP and not: specific grades, specific subjects, or specific grade bands (i.e. "middle school"). This may seen unfair to some, but it has been this way since NCLB was passed into law almost a decade ago. Every principal, administrator or superintendent in the country has had to abide by the same rules even through many have felt their particular circumstance was unique or warranted special consideration.

As for what AYP actually IS in New Jersey--- here is a description from the New Jersey Department of Education website as presented by former Acting Commissioner of Education for the State of New Jersey:

“Like a ‘check engine’ light in a car, the AYP data indicates that something in a school district may not be working properly,” the NJ Acting Commissioner Hendricks said. “It could mean that only one small group of students in a school did not meet standards. Or it could be the first evidence of a systemic problem requiring sweeping change. Though these results are part of a broader picture, the Department takes this indicator very seriously and will work with the local leadership in these districts to examine the data, flag any underlying issues, and take action wherever it is appropriate to ensure our children are being properly served.”

“The report provides an early warning signal about student learning in New Jersey’s school districts and, whatever the reason, demands the attention of stakeholders at all levels to explore how our schools can do better,” added Commissioner Hendricks. “If your school is on the list of those that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, I would encourage you to contact your local school to find out more about the specific challenges and reasons for having fallen short of this marker. Just as the Department will continue to do, we encourage parents, taxpayers, students and administrators to work together to understand and assist in addressing the problems that are highlighted as a result of this report.”

Should a parent or citizen wish to follow Former Commissioner of Education Hendricks encouragement to contact their school district, here are some questions that might be worthwhile asking:

1) Which specific indicators did my child's school fail for the 2010-2011 school year?
- grade level?
- subject area?
- population subgroup? (white, black, hispanic, poverty, etc...)

2) How did this school do last year on these failed indictors?

3) Can you please provide me with a detailed remediation plan for how you plan to address these failed indicators?

4) Can you please explain your strategy that as you concentrate on these failed indicators, other indicators the school is already passing will be maintaing their passing rating?

5) How do you think this school will do in April, 2011 when it is again tested? Do you think the school will do better? worse? or about the same? Can you help me understand the reasons for your best guess?

It is important to be respectful. But, it is equally important to understand your rights and obligations. There is a responsibility school personal have for providing parents, students, taxpayers, and the general public with professional and thoughtful responses to well intentioned questions.

Please see the attached PDF outlining additional details concerning AYP.