AYP is basically a signaling system - it is identifying schools that aren’t meeting state goals and bringing sharper focus to existing achievement gaps. The important next step is to use this information to put into place new practices so that schools will make much-needed progress in raising overall achievement and closing gaps between different groups of students.
The challenge for educators and state policymakers now is to stay the course on AYP even as it is revealing disturbing deficiencies and disparities, even in schools that the public has believed are just fine. High average scores can no longer substitute for making sure that all students get the education they deserve. At the same time, it is imperative to identify the extent to which various schools “need improvement,” so that greater resources and attention can be provided to the schools and students that are the farthest from meeting the state’s goals.
In the end, holding schools accountable for student learning makes sense only if one believes that schools are capable of raising student achievement, even among very poor children. There is abundant evidence that this is possible. Across the country, schools, districts, and even whole states are pointing the way. The challenge is to make educational excellence the rule for all students in all schools.
But the belief that these schools are “outliers” is pervasive. It can be heard in the voices of educators who think it’s unfair to be judged on the performance of “those” kids and seen in the data that demonstrate schools educating the highest concentrations of poor and minority students get less than their fair share of every important resource, especially high quality teachers.
Until policymakers, practitioners, and the public at large summon the will to provide solid educational opportunities to poor and minority students, AYP determinations will tell us as much about our own prejudices as they tell us about student achievement. To make AYP meaningful, we must dedicate ourselves to providing a high-quality public education to every child.
For more information:
The Education Trust
1250 H Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
The ABCs of "AYP": Raising Achievement for All Students. Updated Summer 2004. 14 Nov. 2006 <http://www2.edtrust.org/NR/rdonlyres/37B8652D-84F4-4FA1-AA8D-319EAD5A6D89/0/ABCAYP.PDF>.