Friday, August 29, 2008

The AYP Blues

A little blue this morning?

It's no surprise if you're a school official in Washington state, where this morning's headlines are peppered with phrases like "failing," "falling short" and "missing the mark."

Those characterizations spring from yesterday's AYP update from OSPI specifically, that 628 schools and 57 districts are in "improvement" status, up significantly from last year's 280 schools and 30 districts.

But lost somewhere in much of the coverage is an explanation of why we are seeing such a drastic increase in schools "needing improvement." Consider:
  • 2008 is a “step year.” According to Washington state’s stair-step approach to AYP, the percentage of students who must meet proficiency increases in three-year increments. This year, because it is a step year, the percentage of students who must meet proficiency has increased for all grade spans — elementary (3-5), middle (6-8) and high school.

  • The “n size” changed to 30. Within each grade span, schools and districts are accountable for the performance of all students and several student subgroups: American Indian, Asian, Black, Hispanic, White, English language learners, special education and low-income. Before schools and districts can report on a subgroup’s performance, there must be a minimum number of students in that subgroup to ensure statistically reliable data. Prior to 2008, 40 was the minimum number of students required in the English language learner and special education subgroups. This year, however, the minimum number of students for accountability calculations is 30 across all subgroups.
Ah, the complexities of No Child Left Behind. If only the challenges we face were as simple as a short, punchy headline.


Scott McLeod said...

I think you did a nice job of explaining this. I particularly like the graph!

Of course the merits of a 'step system' of state / federal accountability targets are debatable but, hey, that's what you've got so work with it!

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