AYP stands for “Adequate Yearly Progress” and it was one of the key elements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). One of the goals of NCLB was to ensure that all children were “proficient” in certain basic math and reading skills by 2014. Proficiency was to be determined primarily by test scores.
This meant that all public schools were to make progress every year towards achieving state academic standards and meeting AYP goals. If a school did not achieve AYP, NCLB specified consequences, including such measures as allowing students at the school to go to a different school in their district.
The NCLB was the reauthorization of an existing law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). It established a program of education reform that was based on setting standards and testing students every year to determine if educational goals had been met. It was based on the belief that its program of standards and testing would improve the educational outcomes of students in public schools in the U.S.
The NCLB required all states to develop educational standards and assessments of progress toward achieving these standards. The states were required to administer these assessments to all students at certain grade levels. By requiring all states to comply with this program, the NCLB expanded the role of the federal government in public education. And it was not only testing. The NCLB also set mandates for report cards, teacher qualifications, and other aspects of education.
By 2015, there was so much criticism of the NCLB that Congress removed the national features of the NCLB and replaced it with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which handed authority to regulate education back to the states.
ESSA replaces AYP and 100% proficiency requirements with a model that focuses instead on supporting struggling schools. States must establish an accountability system that measures progress toward “ambitious long-term goals.” States must still measure student progress toward goals on an annual basis, but the way in which progress is measured is different. It is now based on:
- Proficiency as measured by state assessments of academic skills, and
- At least one additional “valid and reliable academic indicator” that can incorporate “student growth”;
- High school graduation rates;
- At least one indicator of school quality or student success that allows for meaningful differentiation, such as student or educator engagement, or school climate and safety.
What Are AYP Goals?
The AYP goals of the NCLB varied according to state, but they all aimed for all students to achieve 100% proficiency in certain academic skills by 2014. States required about a 20% improvement the first year and continued to increase the degree of improvement required each year.
ESSA gives states greater flexibility in education than NCLB. Many of the mandates of ESSA seek transparency for parents and communities from their schools. ESSA requires every state to measure performance in reading, math, and science through assessments, but the states determine how the students are assessed. Every school in each state must inform parents about their standards and their results as shown by tests. Individual student’s test scores are not revealed. Rather scores are reported by categories.
ESSA requires every state to develop a concise and understandable “State Report Card” that is accessible online and provides parents important information on student performance on tests of reading, math, and science. Students continue to take annual tests between the third and eighth grades.
The State Report Cards must also show data on the following:
- Graduation Rates: The graduation rate is the percentage of students enrolled in a senior high school class in a school district who receive a high school diploma at the end of their senior academic year;
- Suspensions: A suspension is a disciplinary action that forbids a student from attending school for a period of time;
- Absenteeism: Absenteeism is the rate of students enrolled in a school who are absent on any given school day;
- Teacher Qualifications: The qualifications of teachers would comprise college degrees, advanced degrees, state certifications and licenses; and
- School Climate: ESSA requires that states also include on their “State Report Card” data about school climate, bullying, and harassment. States can also choose to include measures of school climate and school safety in their accountability system, but even if it is not included in their accountability system, it must be made available to the public.
- Again, the goal is to improve school climate and school safety. Schools are required to make efforts to reduce bullying and harassment. They should further ensure that every school offers its students a safe and supportive learning environment.
ESSA increases transparency in order to empower parents with information to help them make the best choices for their children. For example, states are required to report how much money, on average, they spend per student. This is called “per pupil expenditures.” ESSA also requires states to list their lowest performing 5% of schools and high schools with graduation rates below 67%. These schools should receive “comprehensive support and improvement” from the state in which they are located.
ESSA extends flexibility so funds can be invested in career and technical education. Funds can also support transportation for students to attend higher performing schools rather than lower performing schools that are closer to their homes.
How Is Proficiency Determined?
Proficiency is determined through the use of standardized testing in math, reading, and science. Ninety-five percent of all students in every school must participate in the testing.
The results of such tests are reported by categories of children:
- Students with disabilities: These are students who have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and learn in specialized classrooms;
- Students With Limited English Proficiency;
- Students Who Are Racial Minorities;
- Students from Low-income Families.
What Other Factors Are Taken into Consideration?
In addition to test scores, AYP was also based on other factors such as:
- Class attendance rates;
- Graduation rates.
Under ESSA, measures of progress include more factors than did AYP and are less reliant on testing.
What Happens If a School Does Not Make AYP?
The NCLB Act imposed many consequences on schools for continued failure to achieve AYP as that was defined by the NCLB. Among the consequences were the following:
- Schools were to be characterized as “needing improvement;”
- Schools that failed to make AYP for 2 consecutive years were to be required to offer students the opportunity to transfer to another school within the district in which they lived;
- Schools that failed to meet AYP standards for 3 years in a row were to be required to offer “supplemental services” to students. This could have been, for example, tutoring for students;
- Schools that failed to achieve AYP for 5 years in a row were to be required to take “tough corrective action” such as replacing its teachers or extending the school year.
As noted above, the measures of progress were changed in the ESSA, and these consequences are no longer prescribed for public schools. They were replaced by other steps that states should take if schools do not make the necessary progress.
Under the ESSA, every year, states must inform local school districts of any individual schools in which any subgroup of students is consistently failing to perform to standards. These schools must develop a plan to improve outcomes for the subgroup of students identified as under-performing. The plan must be reviewed and ultimately approved by the district. The district determines how long these schools have to improve, and what action will be taken if schools fail to make progress. It is unclear when and if the state can impose additional requirements on schools that do not improve.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
If you are concerned about your child’s academic progress or if your child experiences bullying or feels unsafe in school, you may want to contact a government lawyer experienced in education and schools.
A lawyer will be able to clarify the numerous laws that impact schools, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, as well as the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and inform you of your rights and the rights of your child.