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Are 82% of Schools ‘Failing’ Under NCLB, as Duncan Warned?

By Michele McNeil — August 03, 2011 2 min read

States are beginning to report the results from their 2010-11 standardized tests, which means we’re learning how many schools are not making “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as part of his campaign to get Congress to rewrite the law, issued dire warnings that 82 percent of schools would be labeled “failing” this year, when many of them may not deserve that label. He used this draconian number to illustrate how NCLB is “broken,” since it sets an unrealistic deadline that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. But many people were skeptical that the number would actually be so high this year. Education policy wonks called the department’s P.R. move “misleading” and not “responsible.”

Was Duncan right?

So far, most states that have released their results aren’t coming close to his 82 percent number. In fact, many of the individual states’ press releases refer to Duncan’s estimate to put a better spin on their own test scores. States set their own benchmarks, but they must steadily increase toward that 100 percent goal. Indeed, many states are asking for relief from such perfect expectations.

Together with my colleagues Amy Wickner and Kay Dorko, who work in the EdWeek library, we did a quick survey of all states to see if they’ve reported AYP results, and if so, what their failure rate is. This is obviously very unscientific, but it will give you an idea of just how AYP is affecting schools. Schools that fail to make AYP face an escalating set of sanctions, and that’s why the rising number is so worrisome.

We’re still waiting on AYP data from some big states—including California, New York, Illinois, and Texas—whose results could paint a very different picture. High failure rates in those states could definitely make Duncan’s prediction more realistic.

States that are not listed below have not released their AYP data yet. (Or, at least we couldn’t find it.) If your state has released AYP data and is not on this list, please leave a comment to that effect. Here’s the state-by-state listing we’ve gathered so far of the percentage of schools that failed to make AYP:

Alabama: 28 percent

Arizona: 42 percent

Florida: 89 percent

Georgia: 37 percent

Hawaii: 62 percent

Idaho: 38 percent

Kansas: 16 percent

Maryland: 45 percent

Missouri: 81.9 percent

New Hampshire: 72 percent

New Jersey: 50 percent

New Mexico: 87 percent

Oregon: 46 percent

Rhode Island: 20 percent

South Carolina: 76 percent

South Dakota: 20 percent

Texas: 34 percent

Vermont: 72 percent

Wisconsin: 11 percent

Wyoming: 29 percent