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Three little letters give glimpse into education quality

Posted: Sunday, August 15, 2004

In the past several weeks, there has been lots of talk about the mysterious "AYP," how individual schools and districts did on "AYP" and what "AYP" means for students in the classroom.

But what is AYP?

Adequate yearly progress, or AYP, is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act's accountability measures for schools. Under the direction of the federal government, individual states last year implemented formulas to measure student achievement at every public school and school district in the country. Using a complex rubric, schools are deemed to "pass" or "fail" the standards based on students' scores on standardized tests, attendance rates and graduation rates.

Like the law's name implies, one focus of the No Child Left Behind Act is to make sure that individual students don't slip through the cracks of the education system.

For that reason, schools are judged not only on the performance of the student body as a whole, but also on the participation and performance of several subgroups, including six ethnic groups white, black, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islan-der, American Indian and Alaska Native and groups of students identified as economically disadvantaged, disabled and low English-speaking proficiency.

In Alaska, AYP works like this:

First, schools are judged on student participation on standardized tests. To pass AYP, each school must have 95 percent of students as a whole and in each subgroup participate in testing.

Next, schools must meet targeted "proficiency" levels on tests. Basically, a predetermined percentage of students in the school and in each subgroup must "pass" the standardized tests. This year, Alaska's target rates were 64.03 percent in language arts and 54.86 percent in math. Those rates will step up gradually until they hit the federally-required 100 percent in the 2013-14 school year.

Finally, schools must "pass" requirements for other academic indicators. In high schools, that means the schools must have a graduation rate of 55.58 percent. In schools without a 12th grade, attendance rates are used instead, with the required target set at 85 percent.

There are, of course, several exceptions to these rules. For example, subgroups with less than 20 students aren't required to meet the proficiency rates. The "students with disabilities" subgroup must have at least 40 students to be considered.

Also, students who didn't attend the school for a full academic year don't count in the proficiency rates.

Because the entire rubric is based on statistics, there also is a "confidence interval," or margin of error to calculating proficiency rates. That means some schools may not quite meet the targeted proficiency rate but will pass AYP anyway because the percentage of passing students is within the margin of error.

Also, Alaska provides a "Safe Harbor" clause for schools consistently under the proficiency rates. Safe Harbor means that a school can pass AYP if it makes significant improvement in its proficiency rates and meets the "other academic factors" requirements (graduation and-or attendance rates).

While the calculation of AYP remains complicated, the simple fact is that the designation is a way to give parents and community members a quick glimpse of their child's educational opportunities. Education officials remind parents that AYP isn't a complete picture of what's going on at a school, but it does provide a snapshot.

It also is a way to hold schools accountable for educating children and for properly spending federal dollars they may receive. Failure to meet AYP leads to a serious of consequences for schools, especially those receiving federal Title I funding (given to schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students).

Schools that miss AYP for one year (Level I) are required to write school improvement plans. After two years, the schools must not only write improvement plans, but also are required to provide students with educational options, such as transportation to a higher-performing school or supplemental services from outside the school district.

At Level III and IV, improvement plans and supplemental services must continue, and Title I schools may face intervention from the state government or be required to replace staff.

In 2003-04, eight Kenai Peninsula Borough School District sites missed AYP, down from 21 in 2002-03. Only one Tebughna School in Tyonek has been designated as a Level III school. Six are at Level II: Connections, Homer Flex, Kachemak Selo, Kenai Alternative, Nanwalek and Soldotna Middle. Seward Middle School reached Level I this year.

Three little letters give glimpse into education quality

By JENNI DILLON

Peninsula Clarion

In the past several weeks, there has been lots of talk about the mysterious "AYP," how individual schools and districts did on "AYP" and what "AYP" means for students in the classroom.

But what is AYP?

Adequate yearly progress, or AYP, is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act's accountability measures for schools. Under the direction of the federal government, individual states last year implemented formulas to measure student achievement at every public school and school district in the country. Using a complex rubric, schools are deemed to "pass" or "fail" the standards based on students' scores on standardized tests, attendance rates and graduation rates.

Like the law's name implies, one focus of the No Child Left Behind Act is to make sure that individual students don't slip through the cracks of the education system.

For that reason, schools are judged not only on the performance of the student body as a whole, but also on the participation and performance of several subgroups, including six ethnic groups white, black, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islan-der, American Indian and Alaska Native and groups of students identified as economically disadvantaged, disabled and low English-speaking proficiency.

In Alaska, AYP works like this:

First, schools are judged on student participation on standardized tests. To pass AYP, each school must have 95 percent of students as a whole and in each subgroup participate in testing.

Next, schools must meet targeted "proficiency" levels on tests. Basically, a predetermined percentage of students in the school and in each subgroup must "pass" the standardized tests. This year, Alaska's target rates were 64.03 percent in language arts and 54.86 percent in math. Those rates will step up gradually until they hit the federally-required 100 percent in the 2013-14 school year.

Finally, schools must "pass" requirements for other academic indicators. In high schools, that means the schools must have a graduation rate of 55.58 percent. In schools without a 12th grade, attendance rates are used instead, with the required target set at 85 percent.

There are, of course, several exceptions to these rules. For example, subgroups with less than 20 students aren't required to meet the proficiency rates. The "students with disabilities" subgroup must have at least 40 students to be considered.

Also, students who didn't attend the school for a full academic year don't count in the proficiency rates.

Because the entire rubric is based on statistics, there also is a "confidence interval," or margin of error to calculating proficiency rates. That means some schools may not quite meet the targeted proficiency rate but will pass AYP anyway because the percentage of passing students is within the margin of error.

Also, Alaska provides a "Safe Harbor" clause for schools consistently under the proficiency rates. Safe Harbor means that a school can pass AYP if it makes significant improvement in its proficiency rates and meets the "other academic factors" requirements (graduation and-or attendance rates).

While the calculation of AYP remains complicated, the simple fact is that the designation is a way to give parents and community members a quick glimpse of their child's educational opportunities. Education officials remind parents that AYP isn't a complete picture of what's going on at a school, but it does provide a snapshot.

It also is a way to hold schools accountable for educating children and for properly spending federal dollars they may receive. Failure to meet AYP leads to a serious of consequences for schools, especially those receiving federal Title I funding (given to schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students).

Schools that miss AYP for one year (Level I) are required to write school improvement plans. After two years, the schools must not only write improvement plans, but also are required to provide students with educational options, such as transportation to a higher-performing school or supplemental services from outside the school district.

At Level III and IV, improvement plans and supplemental services must continue, and Title I schools may face intervention from the state government or be required to replace staff.

In 2003-04, eight Kenai Peninsula Borough School District sites missed AYP, down from 21 in 2002-03. Only one Tebughna School in Tyonek has been designated as a Level III school. Six are at Level II: Connections, Homer Flex, Kachemak Selo, Kenai Alternative, Nanwalek and Soldotna Middle. Seward Middle School reached Level I this year.



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