Emerging Trends Under the ‘No Child Left Behind’ Law’s Standardized Testing System
When these changes are taken into account, it becomes clear that comparing last year’s scores with this year’s scores is like comparing apples to oranges.
Trend #2: More schools have been found “in need of improvement” this year compared to last year. Despite the drop-off so far in the number of schools not meeting AYP for at least one year, the number of schools failing to make AYP for two or more years has almost doubled. Of the 47 states reporting the number of schools not making AYP for two or more years in 2004-05, a total of 10,230 schools failed to make AYP for at least 2 years. This compares to 5,912 schools in those 47 states last school year. Of these 47 states, seven had the number of schools not making AYP for at least two years decrease (fewer schools in need of improvement) and 40 states had the number of schools in this category increase.
This trend is especially significant because those schools receiving federal Title I aid for disadvantaged children that are labeled “in need of improvement” face sanctions. The first time a school receives this label, all of its students (not just low-income students or those who failed to meet the AYP standard) are eligible to transfer to another school within the same school district, and the districts must use up to 15 percent of their Title I funds to pay the costs of transportation for any students who decide to transfer. This school transfer provision is causing chaos and confusion for parents and educators, especially in districts where there are few spaces in other schools for these students to occupy (see accompanying document “School Transfer Consequences under ‘No Child Left Behind’” for examples).
Trend #3: More school districts are failing to meet AYP than are schools. In almost all of the states that have reported information on school districts, the percentage of school districts not meeting AYP is higher than the percentage of schools not meeting AYP. Examples of such states include Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. School districts that fail to make AYP for two or more consecutive years are also subject to NCLB sanctions.
Trend #4: Many schools that received top ratings on state accountability systems failed to make AYP. The best example is in Florida where 827 schools given an “A” rating by Gov. Bush failed to make AYP. In North Carolina, 155 schools designated as North Carolina “Schools of Excellence” or “Schools of Distinction,” suffered the same fate. In Arizona, 40 of the state’s top schools received federal failing labels solely because of the absence of a handful of students on the day the test was given. These conflicting ratings confuse parents and the public and undermine the entire concept of accountability.
Trend #5: More and more schools and school districts will fail to meet AYP in the future. This year, the threshold to meet AYP (the percentage of students who score proficient or above) remained the same this year as for last year in many states. However, this threshold will rise in most states next year, making it even more difficult for many schools and school districts to meet federal standards.
Independent studies in at least five states (CA, CT, IL, LA, MN) have shown that as these bars rise higher and higher, schools and school districts will find it increasingly difficult to meet AYP, and more and more will be labeled as failing. These studies project that by the year 2014—the year all students are required to be proficient in reading, math and science—between three quarters and 99 percent of all schools will be found failing to meet AYP.
Conclusion: Many schools and school districts are seeing real academic progress, due to proven reforms such as small class sizes and teacher training and years of hard work by dedicated educators. But the law as currently constructed fails to give parents and educators a fair and accurate picture of which schools are improving and why. The law’s bureaucratic system of standardized tests, rankings, and sanctions is also interfering with ongoing efforts to boost achievement for all children and neglecting to focus attention and resources on those individual students who need the most need help.
- From Joel Packer and Dan Kaufman, NEA; circulated with permission.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.