What Does AYP Really Mean?

By Dakarai I. Aarons — August 20, 2010 2 min read
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Tom Weber of Minnesota Public Radio produced a story that really leads to a fundamental question: “What does AYP really mean, anyway?”

Weber noted that seven of the schools that were selected as among Minnesota’s lowest-performing and targeted for intervention using Title I School Improvement Grants received good news later on from the state’s education department: They had all made adequate yearly progress under the state’s accountability system for No Child Left Behind compliance purposes.

So should the leaders of these schools have been sacked or celebrated? Weber asks the state for an answer.

“I don’t know, that’s a good question,” said Pat King, director of the Office of Turnaround Schools for the state Education Department. “It’s a requirement of the grant, so time will tell.”

King went on to say that the turnaround grants are aimed at bringing long-term success to the schools, not just the immediate meeting of a NCLB standard, so making AYP does help the schools on their paths to improvement.

Such a mixed message is not new.

So what are states and districts really saying to the public when they tell you a school is in good standing because it’s met AYP? It’s often interpreted by the general public (and some media folks) as a sign the school is doing well, but the true answer is more complicated.

Here’s another example: Detroit’s school district was recently touting the fact that it made AYP as a district for the first time in four years. System leaders rightly said it was the start of a potential success story, but how do we communicate such facts in a clear way to the general public, which doesn’t live in the world of AYP, Safe Harbor, subgroups, and n-sizes?

NCLB has been with us for eight years now, and this is a question I’ve contemplated since I first dove into writing about AYP at The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis. And I have to say, nearly a decade in, I don’t think the public has been well-served by media outlets or school districts in the way we’ve communicated accountability information.

The story’s more complex than labeling a school “failing” or “good.” And as we enter a new national conversation about turning around some of our persistently low-performing schools, I want to help us all do better, so tell me:

How are you communicating with parents and others in your districts and communities about where schools stand and your efforts to improve them?


What can the media do differently to make sure school standing and reform is communicated accurately?

Comment away below or send me an e-mail.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.