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NCLB: Adequate Yearly Progress

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) rightfully seeks to hold schools accountable for their effectiveness in making academic progress with their students and for overcoming achievement gaps. The law's mechanism for doing so is the adequate yearly progress (AYP) formula.

But although the P in AYP stands for progress, AYP does not measure the yearly progress of the same students over time. Not surprisingly, the evidence shows that whether or not a school makes AYP does not necessarily depend on its effectiveness or the presence or absence or size of achievement gaps.

Moreover, although the A in AYP stands for adequate, the evidence shows that AYP targets are not merely challenging, they are unrealistic. By 2014, almost all schools, very many of them high performing, will have failed AYP. Indeed, no nation has been or is close to meeting the kind of standard that has been set by NCLB.

Therefore, for the sake of preserving the legitimacy of accountability—and, above all, in order to achieve the legitimate goals of NCLB—AYP must be fundamentally overhauled into a system that:

  • Sets challenging but demonstrably attainable student progress goals;
  • Judges school effectiveness—the only valid and fair basis for accountability—and not out-of-school factors that are outside of educators' control by measuring the progress that schools achieve with the same students over time;
  • Truly "leaves no child behind" by producing accurate accountability decisions without excluding certain groups of students and by holding large and small schools and diverse and homogeneous schools equally accountable for their performance;
  • Maintains reporting on student achievement by subgroup—chief among them, low-income students as compared to their more advantaged peers—without giving schools dozens of ways of being declared "failures" and only one way to make AYP; and
  • Enables states to meet—and ensures federal enforcement of—the current NCLB requirement that states' implementation of AYP meet professional standards for validity and reliability by ensuring that NCLB's own AYP requirements and regulations also meet such scientifically based standards.

AFT Resources

AFT on Adequate Yearly Progress, updated June 2007

Q&A: Student Testing/Accountability, updated April 2007

Eight Misconceptions about the No Child Left Behind Act’s (NCLB) Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Provisions, 2004

What's Proficient? The No Child Left Behind Act and the Many Meanings of Proficiency, 2004

Which One Is the 'Failing' School? Adequate Yearly Progress in NCLB, English | Spanish, 2004

AFT Summary on AYP and School Improvement, English | Spanish, 2004