In a previous article, Deidre Polow and the Significance of "Adequate Yearly Progress", I asked if readers could explain why Polow brandishes "AYP" like a jedi with a light saber, trying to convince residents that "making AYP" is some sort of significant achievement for her and her fellow Board of Education members. It is actually the exact opposite of what she claims.
Recently released data from New York State shows the full extent of the hollowness of her claims:
Schools making AYP in New York State: 89%
Schools making AYP in Westchester County: 93%
District making AYP in New York State: 95%
At the state level, making AYP means only that New Rochelle is not among the bottom 5% of school districts in New York State. At the county level making AYP translates not being in the bottom 7%. Considering that the New Rochelle school district is one of the 50 most expensive school district in the United States (25 of Westchester's 37 districts are among them top 50) this is not what most people would consider an indication for getting good "bang for the buck", one of Polow's favorite phrases.
The problem for Polow and those at the BoE who want to claim making AYP as if it were some sort of achievement is that AYP is a term derived from New York State efforts to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB is not designed to identify schools of excellence as people like Ms. Polow would like the public to believe but rather to identify failing schools. The purpose of identifying failing schools is not to reward non-failing schools but to provide parents a path towards getting their children out of failing schools if those schools identified as failing do not take sufficient correction action within a specified time.
No Child Left Behind requires all public schools to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students. Schools which receive Title I funding must make Adequate Yearly Progress in test scores (e.g. each year, its fifth graders must do better on standardized tests than the previous years).
Consequences of Failing to make AYP
Year 1 of Missing AYP: There are no consequences for the first year a school misses AYP.
Year 2 of Missing AYP: If a school misses AYP for a second consecutive year, it is identified as “in need of improvement.” The school must develop a two-year improvement plan in consultation with parents, school staff, and the school district. The plan should address core academic subjects and any specific subjects the school is struggling with. Students enrolled in the school now have the option to transfer to another school within the school district that has not been identified as “in need of improvement.” Priority is given to the lowest achieving students from low-income families enrolled in the school.
Year 3 of Missing AYP: If a school misses AYP for another consecutive year, the school must continue to offer students the option to transfer to another school, and must offer tutoring and other “supplemental education services” to students.
Year 4 of Missing AYP: If a school misses AYP for a fourth consecutive year, the school is identified for “corrective action.” Corrective action involves more serious steps to improve the school’s academic performance. Steps can include replacing staff, introducing new curricula, bringing in outside consultants to help with school performance, extending the school day or year, or changing the management structure of the school.
Year 5 of Missing AYP: If, after a full year of corrective action, a school misses AYP for a fifth consecutive year, the school will be placed under “restructuring.” The school must prepare a plan for an alternative governance arrangement, which can include reopening the school as a charter school, contracting management to a private, outside management group, turning the school over to the state for reorganization, or any other changes to school governance that “make fundamental reforms.”
Year 6 of Missing AYP: If the school misses AYP for a sixth consecutive year, it must implement the restructuring plan developed in the prior year.
Where in this does anyone on the school board derive the bizarre notion that making AYP was ever intended to be an honor. The use of the word "adequate" should be a clue. To pretend, as Ms. Polow so often does that making AYP is some sort of government designation of excellence is a total perversion of NCLB and a bastardization of the term Adequate Yearly Progress.
New York State just released the AYP data for 2008-2009. 53 school district failed to meet "AYP". There are 731 school district is New York State. With calculations even a New Rochelle math department chair could do, this shows that 92.7% of the school districts in New York State met "AYP". This is hardly a measure of distinction; all it means is that after spending over a billion dollars over the past 5 years, New Rochelle is not among the absolute bottom of the barrel in New York State.
Now the Journal News has put the entire New York School/District Accountability list up on their web site as a searchable database.
Most New York's schools and districts are in "good standing" for the upcoming 2009-10 school year, but 499 schools and 35 districts have been identified for improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act.
In Westchester, five schools in Yonkers and Mount Vernon are restructuring while 10 schools in Yonkers, White Plains, Port Chester, Mount Vernon and Greenburg were listed as improving. Five high schools in Ossining, Peekskill, Mount Vernon, White Plains and Yonkers were listed as needing corrective action or had a "systemic inability" to make progress. However, most schools and districts in Westchester and Rockland were listed in good standing. All of Putnam's schools are listed as being in good standing.
This database provides the status of 5,279 schools and districts in the state for the 2009-10 school year. The status was determined by test scores in English, math and science.
If there are 5,279 schools and districts in New York State and if there are 731 school districts then we know there are 4,548 schools in New York State. The Journal News now reports that 499 schools failed to make AYP so 4,049 schools did make AYP; 35 district failed to make AYP out of 731 so 696 districts made AYP. So, 89% of schools in New York State made AYP and 95% of the districts made AYP.
Five schools in Westchester are "restructuring", ten schools are "improving" and five high schools are labeled as needing corrective action or had a "systemic inability" to make progress for a total of 20 schools listed as not making AYP. The database lists 297 schools in Westchester which means that 277 schools are making AYP or 93%.