The final, dismal “Adequate Yearly Progress” ratings of Texas school districts for 2012 have been announced, but the ratings tell us more about the infirmities of the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s AYP rating system than about the deficiencies of Texas public schools.
According to the AYP numbers, fully 71.1 percent of Texas school districts and 47.5 percent of all campuses officially failed to meet their AYP goals for 2012. The goals are defined in terms of passing rates on state achievement tests in English/reading and math in grades 3-8 and 10. The required passing rates in recent years have been climbing steeply toward the improbable requirement of a 100-percent passing rate by 2014.
The principal vice of this flawed system of school ratings is the mislabeling of districts and schools as failing when in fact they are making good academic progress. As the U.S. secretary of education has said, the AYP rating system under NCLB has created a set of artificial proficiency goals, based on widely varying achievement-test yardsticks established by each state, which leave out of account much of the relevant evidence of what is happening in our schools. By over-identifying schools as failing, the AYP system actually prevents resources and interventions from being focused as intensively as possible on schools that truly are in trouble.