In part 1 of an ongoing series relating to the 10-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, reporter Keith Beebe
takes a closer look at the primary measurement tool, Adequate Yearly Progress
Photo: Students concentrate on their computer work in the Learning Resource Center at Blackberry Creek Elementary School in Elburn. Photo by Patti Wilk
by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), instituted in 2003 as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, is a measurement tool meant to ensure that every state school improve its standardized test scores in reading and mathematics each year through 2014.
Currently, only two of the six schools in the Kaneland District—Blackberry Creek and John Shields Elementary—meet AYP standards, and it could be just a matter of time before those schools also fall below an AYP requirement that will boast a meets-and-exceeds requirement of 100 percent two years from now.
AYP, based on Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) for grades 3-8 and the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) for grade 11, mandates that a specific percentage of students at those grade levels in every state school meet or exceed the reading and mathematics requirement in place for the year. According to the Illinois Interactive Report Card website, the AYP target was set at 40 percent for 2003 and 2004, 47.5 percent for 2005 and 2006, 55 percent for 2007, 62.5 percent for 2008, 70 percent for 2009, 77.5 percent for 2010 and 88.5 percent for 2011. The AYP target number for 2012 and 2013 is 92.5 percent.
Every school must have a student participation rate of 95 percent to validate its meets-and-exceeds percentage for the year. If a school does not meet the minimum participation rate, its numbers can still be considered valid if the school’s participation rate the current year and previous year (or two previous years) averages out to at least 95 percent.
Attendance and graduation rate requirements, which are also part of AYP, have gradually increased since 2003. Attendance and graduation requirements in 2012 are set at 91 percent and 84 percent, respectively.
AYP requires 77.5 percent of every subgroup to meet and exceed reading and mathematics requirements. Subgroups are defined by racial demographics, limited English proficiency (LEP), special needs students involved in individualized educational program (IEP), and low income.
“The reality is that the requirements have risen to a point that there are very few school districts that are able to meet them, especially when you look at all buildings and all the subgroups that are required for reporting,” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. “As with any assessment that you use, if the target for performance is not realistic, then the data that you get is probably not going to be very informative.”
Kaneland High School hasn’t met the AYP requirement since 2006 (KHS achieved a rate of 62 percent that year), but the state PSAE average hasn’t exceeded 56 percent since the implementation of AYP nine years ago.
As a result of scoring below the AYP requirement four consecutive years, Kaneland High School is on Academic Watch Status and eligible for state sanctions.
Kaneland Harter Middle School, despite notching a meets-and-exceeds rate of 91 percent in 2011, is also currently below AYP requirements.
Erika Schlichter, Kaneland director of educational services 6-12, said her concern with AYP isn’t that it has set the academic bar extremely high, but that the requirement is based on only one score or data point and does not paint a true picture.
“The other concern I have with AYP is that it does not allow us to measure growth of student cohorts or the progress made by specific groups of students, but instead judges based on comparisons of this year’s class to last year’s class, so student growth is not factored in,” she said. “In addition, the way the current AYP standards are applied, they are very punitive to schools, which have made it difficult for many schools to have the flexibility to utilize different improvement measures.”
In 2011, Blackberry Creek and John Shields elementary schools achieved a meets-and-exceeds testing rate of 91 percent and 89 percent, respectively. In fact, both schools have scored at least 89 percent every year since 2006. Those consistent high scores, however, won’t be good enough to satisfy an increased AYP requirement of 92.5 percent in 2012. Nevertheless, the scores of Blackberry Creek and John Shields are far superior to the state average, which resided at 82 percent last year.
John Stewart and McDole elementary schools in 2011 had a meets-and-exceeds rate of 87 percent and 86 percent, respectively. Both schools tallied a rate of 90 percent in 2010.
“I am never against raising the bar and expectations in education; I am opposed to reporting and looking at only one score to check progress,” said Dr. Sarah Mumm, director of educational services K-5. “We have over 20 data points that tell the whole story, not just this one piece of data.”
Schuler said he was proud of the results at each of the district’s elementary schools.
“Each of (our) principals have carefully looked at the results with their school improvement teams to look for areas where we can improve,” he said. “As schools identify individual skill areas that can be improved, they reflect on those areas in our curriculum and make adjustments to help our students. The results this year are not inconsistent with the results of previous years.”
According to Schuler, some relief from AYP requirements could be in store for the state of Illinois.
“I am not sure that when the (No Child Left Behind) law was passed that many people believed it would make it to 2014 without some type of revision. It now appears that is more likely as we get closer to that date and the number of school districts not making yearly progress is increasing,” he said. “There is some discussion now at the national level about a waiver process that will allow states to get some relief from the requirements, but I am not sure what that will look like for Illinois.”