If you check out the Arizona Department of Education's website today, at the top, you'll see a link titled, "2007 AYP School Determinations", with the bold word, "New" after it. It looked important, if for no other reason than the unexplained, "AYP" and the "New" that gradually changes colors if you look at it long enough. (From light green to navy blue and back to light green again.)
Of course, clicking on the link does not answer the logical first question, "What does AYP stand for?" (After two phone calls, it was revealed that AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress, but more on that later.)
Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) usually rates pretty high in this sort of thing, so I blithely scrolled down to the clump of schools under PUSD, only to discover that PUSD - in particular, Prescott High School (PHS) - did NOT meet the AYP determinations. But, how can that be? PHS is an Excelling school, and all the PUSD schools are rated at higher than Performing. How can they Excel and yet not meet AYP standards ?
That's when I made the phone call to the Arizona Department of Education, and spoke with Joshua Sheffield, who explained what AYP is, and that the AYP is a federal measurement, mandated by the No Child Left Behind act. On the other hand, whether or not a school "Performs" or "Excels" is an Arizona State determination. They are mostly independent of each other.
About the Federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Determination
The AYP is a pass/fail system, and it is based on four main criteria: 1) Did you test at least 95% of all students? 2) Did you meet Test Objectives? In other words, did an appropriate percentage of students demonstrate proficiency in state standards, such as the AIMS tests? 3) Did the school have an annual attendance rate of at least 90% over the first 100 days of the academic year? (Apparently this does not apply to high schools.) 4) Did you meet a graduation rate of 71% or higher? (This does apply to high schools.)
Judging a school entirely on AYP standards may prove to be unfair, because if a school does not meet any one of the AYP requirements, it is determined that the school does not meet AYP requirements overall. So, in the case of Prescott High School, it reportedly did not test at least 95% of all students, and therfore did not pass the AYP requirements. (How DO you round up 95% of 1900 high school students and coax them to absolutely show up just to take a test, anyway?) They did, however, meet their test objectives for AIMS proficiency, and they did have a graduation rate of higher than 71%.
By the way, two other schools in the quad-city area also did not meet AYP standards: Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, also because they did not test enough students, and Chino Valley High School, which apparently had too low of a graduation rate. This is the first year that Chino Valley High School has not met AYP standards.
There are some pretty strong consequences for failure to meet AYP standards for two or more years in a row. According to the White House Fact Sheet on the No Child Left Behind Act,
- If a school fails to make AYP for two consecutive years, it will be identified as needing improvement and must develop improvement plans incorporating strategies from scientifically based research. School districts will be required to offer public school choice (unless prohibited by state law) to all students in the failing school no later than the first day of the school year following identification. The district must provide transportation to the new school.
- If a school fails to make AYP for a third consecutive year, the district must continue to offer public school choice and provide Title I funds (approximately $500 to $1,000 per child) for low-achieving disadvantaged students in the school to obtain supplemental services -- tutoring, after school services, or summer school programs -- from the public- or private-sector provider selected by their parents from a State-approved list. Twenty percent of Title I funds at the local school district level must be used for public school choice and supplemental services.
- If a school fails to make AYP for a fourth consecutive year, it will be subject to increasingly tough corrective actions-such as replacing school staff or significantly decreasing management authority at the school level. If a school continues to fail, the school could ultimately face restructuring, which involves a fundamental change in governance, such as a State takeover or placement under private management.
This can be a very difficult standard to meet, because it does not necessarily apply to a school as a whole, but to individual sub-categories. So, according to Totsy McCraley, PHS Principal, one of their categories is comprised of Special Ed students. And as McCraley explained, "The first year involved two [special ed] students who were absent on testing day and then withdrew from school before the make up tests were given. The state still counted them in with their co-hort group and we did not meet the 95%."
McCraley went on to note, "My understanding is that AYP, even though it is applied to each sub-category a school has, such as EL and special ed, will apply to the whole school. AYP is given one point out of a 21 point process to determine a school’s label. In spite of losing that one point for the past two years, once our fault and once the state’s, PHS has earned 20 out of 21 possible points in determining labels."
Kevin Kapp, Superintendent of PUSD, seemed to be frustrated by the situation, too. His comment? "Totsy is correct. It’s crazy…"
Even Sheffield noted, "If a school tests 94% of its students, they will fail to meet the entire AYP. It's pass/fail."
Regarding the second year of failing to meet the AYP, McCraley said that PHS is in the process of trying to clear up a reporting glitch made by the state. If it cannot clear up the situation with the state, it is possible that PHS could be identified as a school which is needing improvement.
About the Achievement Profiles
In addition to meeting the federal AYP standards, schools are graded by the State of Arizona on performance. Here are the definitions of the Achievement Profiles, as found on the School Report Cards:
- Excelling - significantly above state performance goals, in addition a significant number of students have exceeded the standard on the AIMS test.
- Highly Performing - above state performance goals or has demonstrated adequate improvement, in addition a significant number of students have exceeded the standard on the AIMS test.
- Performing Plus -above state performance goals, however the number of students exceeding the standard on the AIMS test is not sufficient to earn a highly performing or excelling label.
- Performing - meets state performance goals.
- Underperforming - needs to meet state performance and state progress goals.
- Failing to Meet the Academic Standards - needs to meet state performance and state progress goals. School performance has been designated as Underperforming for three consecutive years and a site review determined that the designation of Failing to Meet the Academic Standards was warranted.
School Achievement in the Quad-City Area
As mentioned above, all schools, with the exception of Prescott High School, Chino Valley High School and Bradshaw Mountain Middle School have met the federal AYP requirements.
State of Arizona Achievement Profiles
There are three schools ranked as Excelling in our Quad-City Community:
Abia Judd Elementary School
Granite Mountain Middle School
Prescott High School
Seven schools are Highly Performing:
Lincoln Elementary School
Taylor Hicks School
Washington Traditional School
Precott Mile High Middle School
Liberty Traditional School
Del Rio Elementary School
Territorial Elementary School
The following schools are Performing Plus:
Miller Valley School
Bradshaw Mountain Middle School
Glassford Hill Middle School
Humboldt Elementary School
Mountain View Elementary School
Coyote Springs Elementary School
Bradshaw Mountain High School
Granville Elementary School
Mayor Junior/Senior High School
Heritage Middle School
Chinvo Valley High School
Mayer Elementary School is a Performing school. Apparently the only school in the quad-city area which has been graded as Underperforming is the the Mayer Junior High School. Schools are allowed to appeal an Achievement Profile Classification under certain circumstances.