For those who are involved with Alabama schools, I highly recommend this blog post, which points out some of the pitfalls of the way Adequate Yearly Progress is calculated. For example, when results were released this year, we saw that while 75% of the schools in Alabama made AYP, quite a few of our most prestigious schools failed to make it.
The reason? In very simple terms, the “40 makes a subgroup” rule. If your enrollment is large, you will have 40 or more in the special education subgroup or limited English proficient subgroups. The scores for those students counts as a separate group.And the bar for that group is the same as for any other students. If your enrollment is smaller, and you don’t have 40 in those subgroups, the scores don’t count against you regardless of how low they are.
For quick some time, I have felt we need to be looking at something else to determine how well a school is performing. For years, we have been giving the Stanford Achievement Test, comparing our students to a normed group from across the nation. Since AYP has become the accountability measure, the emphasis being placed on SAT-10 has been diminished. Schools are celebrating making AYP while at the same time their SAT-10 scores are in the 30th-40th percentile range.
The blog post I encourage you to read discusses the AYP issue further. It also points you to what I think are two valuable resources. The first is the Interpretive Guide. If you want to know exactly how AYP is figured in Alabama, this is the Bible, and it’s updated yearly. That post includes a link to it, or you can simply use the one I just gave you.
The second valuable resource is a website that provides data for every Alabama school looking at percentages of students who scored at “Level IV” on the Alabama Reading and Math Test. For many schools, the AYP bar is pretty low. Principals are able to count on the fingers of one hand the kids in a grade that are not “proficient” and special plans are in place to target those kids. Just making AYP is not much of a challenge. When we look at the percentage of students who “exceed standards” (Level IV), the data becomes meaningful and can show some true reasons for celebration and some true areas for focus. The link to that website is in the blog post I recommend, or you can access it here.