2011 “Adequate Yearly Progress” Ratings: Failure by Design

According to new ratings of Texas public schools that came  out Thursday, under federal standards the percentage of Texas campuses making “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, dropped from 86 percent in 2010 to just 66 percent this year.

“Two things stand out about these abysmal 2011 federal ratings of Texas schools,” said Linda Bridges, president of Texas AFT.

“First, there’s a real question about how much weight to give to these plummeting federal ratings, considering that students’ actual passing rates on state achievement tests ‘largely held steady this year,’ according to Commissioner of Education Robert Scott.

“Second, if these ratings are to be taken seriously, as a sign that more and more schools are failing to meet rising standards with shrinking resources, then it’s a case of failure by design.

“Just look at the declining state ‘performance measures’ in the state budget bill for 2012-2013. That bill slashes more than $5 billion from public education. The performance measures are the state’s official targets for what our schools are expected to accomplish with their reduced state aid over the next two years. They show that the percentage of campuses meeting the federal AYP standard is expected to drop even further, to 61 percent, by 2013.”

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, school districts and campuses nationwide are expected to attain a 100-percent passing rate on state achievement tests in reading/English Language Arts and mathematics by 2014.  Year by year, en route to 2014, schools have been expected to meet AYP targets—intermediate goals for passing rates, set by each state using its own achievement tests—ratcheting up toward the ultimately required 100-percent passing standard. A school that persistently fails to meet the required AYP targets is subject to sanctions, including options such as conversion to a charter school, wholesale replacement of the school’s staff, and contracting out the operation of the school to alternative providers of educational services.

Across the political spectrum, the No Child Left Behind Act has fallen out of favor since 2002, not least because of doubts about the wisdom of this 100-percent passing standard, which is bound to pin a “failing” label on many schools that actually are making rapid progress. But the requirement remains on the books, as a long-pending overhaul of the federal education law is still hung up over other issues.