Friday, September 17, 2010

Adequate Yearly Progress – The Rest of the Story

Over the last few months, I have been working at the state and national level on developing accountability models for schools, districts and states that might help us replace the existing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) model called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

While AYP helped us focus on ALL children, the measure had numerous flaws. In Kentucky, we have been developing a new accountability system per requirements of 2009’s Senate Bill 1. On September 23, we will release reports that demonstrate our proposed model that focuses on college and career readiness, proficiency, growth and closing gaps. We feel this model is much better than the singular focus on proficiency that NCLB provided. Parts of the following paragraphs come from previous blogs I have written about AYP and will help readers understand my concerns with AYP.

As a baseball player, you want to get a hit every time you bat. What if you got a hit 9 out 10 times you went to bat, but your stats only listed you simply as a ‘failure?’ What if your football team won 10 out of 11 games, but you were still told you failed? What if you took a 100-item test and answered 99 items correctly, yet when you received your grade, it’s a large, red ‘F?’

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s because it is! However, this is exactly what the No Child Left Behind measure known as Adequate Yearly Progress does to schools.

As an educator, I can’t deny that the purpose of NCLB is very laudable. We all want every child to be successful. The measure of AYP was never intended to label schools as failures, nor have teachers felt like they are failures. However, each year around this time, news reports all over the state and nation come out about NCLB and how schools have failed to make the grade or how schools have come up short on the NCLB scale.

While the goal of NCLB is certainly a noble one, the creators of this legislation have failed to properly communicate its true, albeit very complicated, meaning. As Commissioner of Education in Kentucky, I want to help our community better understand this thing called Adequate Yearly Progress.

Every school has something called ‘subgroups’ of students. These subgroups are defined by the federal government, not schools. Possible subgroups include students with disabilities; African-American students; students who are economically disadvantaged; students who speak, read and write with limited English proficiency; and others. Each subgroup of students must meet both reading and mathematics goals at a level defined by the state. Each subgroup therefore becomes a goal that each school must work to meet.

Some schools have as many as 25 subgroups (goals), and some schools have as few as three subgroups (goals), depending upon the makeup of the school’s student population. Schools that have higher socio-economic levels and less diversity among their students have fewer subgroups and thus have fewer goals to meet.

Schools and districts all across Kentucky are being labeled as failures even though they may reach 80-95 percent of their goals. Ridiculous -- and most parents understand that this is ridiculous. Recent PDK Gallup polls show that the majority of parents and the public do not think NCLB measures have improved schools.
As commissioner, I am extremely proud of the dedication and hard work of teachers and administrators in Kentucky. I am extremely proud of the community partners who are helping our schools reach higher levels of performance. Teachers and staff members deserve a pat on the back and encouragement from the community.

No Child Left Behind is coming up for re-authorization in the next year or so. I encourage all citizens to help teachers and staff communicate to our politicians that we support helping children be successful; however, we need other ways to announce the results of our efforts and the progress, not failure, of our schools. In Kentucky, the requirements of Senate Bill 1 will serve as a model for the nation as we consider reauthorization of NCLB.


  1. I believe we had better results and better standing when compared with other nations when we worried more about the effectiveness of what was going on in the classroom than debating once a year tests.

    Didn't you measure many more things when you were closing gaps on the road to the Baldrige award?

    Didn't you get parent input without giving away control of the schools to amateur parents and non-management teachers?

    Surely along the way you held people accountable for results without letting them fail 5, 6, 7 years.

    We are missing some fundamentals in KY education. You earn your job every day. You do not get rewarded for failure. You do not point the finger at poverty as an excuse for not closing learning gaps. You do not let the union intimidate you to accept the unacceptable.

    You knew these things when earning the Baldrige. What happened when you crossed the state line into KY?

    It is time you lead with a sense of time is of the essence! The kids have waited long enough for an adult champion for them.

  2. Thanks for the reminder to focus on the children and not accept excuses. Rep. Moberly also gave me that reminder this week. I hope you will take time to look at our proposed accountability model that the KBE will be considering over coming months. This model will certainly have a balanced approach but also focus on what is needed to help more children reach success