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What’s AYP anyway?

This year’s Department of Education accountability report shows that Lowell schools have made their best progress to date on MCAS, the state-mandated test, with 17 and 19 of 23 schools achieving AYP in the aggregate in math and reading respectively. Educators often get caught up in an alphabet soup of acronyms from NCLB to LEP that leave others searching for translators. For instance, NCLB refers to No Child Left Behind, a federal law mandating schools test students based on individual state standards (in Massachusetts, that’s the MCAS test) with the goal of 100% proficiency by 2014. LEP refers to Limited English Proficient, which labels students by level of English fluency and happens to be one of several subgroup categories…. AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress—the growth in student test scores necessary to reach 100% proficiency by 2014. AYP targets for each school are based on the student progress needed each year to mathematically reach 100% proficiency by 2014, beginning with 2001 when the MCAS test was first administered. AYP, then, is a moving target—every year, the percentage of children doing well on the test must move close enough to equal 100% by 2014. Also, keep in mind that the comparison is year to year results—last year’s tenth graders compared to this year’s tenth graders. It does not follow or give schools credit for the progress of individual students. In addition, schools must meet AYP for two years in a row, so even though a clear majority of our schools made AYP this year, it is not enough to pull them out of a “needs improvement” or other warning category. Another factor to consider is that schools must meet AYP in subgroup categories as well, such as LEP, special education, poverty, and minority categories. Also, when a school doesn’t meet AYP for one year, its goal for the next is then higher. One more thing to consider, the closer we get to 2014, the more you will find schools all over the state—in even our wealthiest communities—who are not able to meet AYP. In fact, the Boston Globe reported the number of schools who have consistently not met AYP increased by 30% this year. 

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