My mother always taught me; if I don't like the rules either change them or find a way around them.
It seems administrators at the Department of Education were taught the same lesson. The Obama Administration's attempts to re-write No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have stalled in Congress so the President has instructed department staffers to come up with a plan to allow states to get around NCLB's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates.
Under NCLB, schools and districts need to prove that their students' test scores are improving and are making adequate progress every year. Initially it was hoped that all students would be 100-percent proficient in all subjects by 2014. Until then, annual stepping stone targets have been set. It's a complicated fomula that is based on a series of criteria.
Another complication - the targets are set by individual states and include their own loopholes. In Washington there are two ways a school can make AYP:
1) By demonstrating that all students meet or exceed the established proficiency goals in both math and reading, or
2) By meeting the so-called "safe harbor" provision (this is the loophole). This provision allows schools with one or more subgroup (categories of students i.e., race/ethnicity, income, disability) not making the goal to still make AYP if the percentage of students not making AYP in that school dropped by at least 10-percent and the other indicator (graduation rate for high schoolers or unexcused absences for elementary, middle or junior high students) is met.
Like I said, it's complicated.
The bottom line is that if schools don't meet AYP targets they face disciplinary action and possible takeover by the feds. (As with the AYP formula, there are complicated formulas attached here as well that explain when and how any disciplinary action can occur).
Meeting Adequate Yearly Progress standards is so tough for some districts they've resorted to cheating. In Atlanta, at least 41 educators, including more than a dozen principals, have quit amidst an investigation that has uncovered widespread cheating. Some schools even had "erasure parties" to change scores on students' tests so that they could meet AYP targets. Another 130 educators have been implicated in the scandal and could face criminal charges.
This week the Department of Education tentatively agreed to allow Montana to have a "bye" in meeting AYP targets. It is the latest of 13 states lined up for waivers. What those states will have to do to actually get the waivers is not yet known. final rules for the waiver program won't be out until September.
A spokesman for theOffice of Superintendent of Public Instruction told Education Weekly that Washington won't be asking for a waiver, even though more than 100 Washington schools have filed to make adequate yearly progress.
Nathan Olson told the newspaper's blog writers, "By applying for a waiver, we would be sending a message validating NCLB. Students in Washington State are achieving at higher and higher rates. NCLB's all-or-nothing approach undercuts that movement. In short, the law is flawed."
OSPI is slated to release the latest AYP list on Aug. 31.