AYP goals for schools get harder annually

Published 5:32 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Three county schools have failed to meet accountability standards set by the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act. Report cards for public schools across the state were issued by the Alabama Department of Education on Monday.

But Butler County was not alone. 75 percent of schools in Alabama met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), but that’s an 11 percent drop from a year ago when 86 percent of the state’s schools achieved all goals. Last year, all but one school (Greenville High School) in Butler County made AYP.

The reason, according to the state department of education, is because of increasingly difficult standards as mandated by No Child Left Behind. Each year the bar is raised for schools to achieve higher goals in mathematics and reading, while also ensuring attendance and graduation requirements are met. The requirement is for all children educated in the United States to be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014.

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“As the deadline of 2014 gets closer, the requirement of perfection gets closer. Having the ‘requirement’ of No Child Left Behind that every student in America be proficient in Reading and Mathematics is very different than the ‘goal’ aspiring that every student hit that mark,” stated Dr. Joe Morton, State Superintendent of Education. “Every year the bar gets higher and higher and every year Alabama students show improvement. The challenge is to have our improvement trajectory be the same increase as the annual goal requirement trajectory.”

Morton called for a “growth model compliance” to be included in a re-authorization of the NCLB act currently in Congress, a system, he said, that would measure Alabama schools’ academic progress without designating schools as having passed or failed in a given year.

There are good things about NCLB. It addresses the needs of all students, holds schools accountable, and has resulted in improved test scores by students across the nation. On the other hand, districts actually receive more federal aid when schools fail, educators target minimum requirements as a benchmark rather than focusing on higher student achievement, and standardized tests have long drawn criticism because students and teachers spend most of their time learning to take a test.

Butler County faced additional challenges last year, spending the bulk of the school year without a permanent superintendent. There was also the H1N1 virus circulating, which affected attendance at all schools in the county.

We’re confident school leaders will continue to do their best in meeting federally mandated goals. But sometimes it feels as if our schools are chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of a very long rainbow.