WASHINGTON — Nearly half of the country’s public schools are estimated to have failed in making federally mandated academic progress last year, according to a report released Thursday by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center on Education Policy.
The report could be the last of its kind.
Under terms of the nearly 10-year-old federal No Child Left Behind law, schools are tasked with annual increases in the percentage of students who achieve proficiency on standardized tests in math and reading, working toward a goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014. Failure to achieve adequate yearly progress, or AYP, can result in financial penalties for schools and forced restructuring of schools.
But this fall, the U.S. Department of Education introduced a waiver system that would exempt states from having to meet AYP requirements in exchange for several changes, including statewide school accountability systems and performance-based teacher evaluations. So far, 11 states have already submitted applications for waivers, and 28 more, along with Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, say they plan to apply by mid-February.
The waivers were introduced, in part, because of concerns about the growing number of schools that were failing to meet AYP standards. The overall estimated 48 percent failure rate in 2011 would represent a nearly 25 percent increase from the previous year and the highest percentage of schools missing the mark in the history of the law. It does, however, constitute a better result than t hat predicted by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan: While stumping for a congressional overhaul of NCLB earlier this year, he suggested that the number of schools failing to meet AYP standards could be as high as 82 percent.
Even though Duncan appears to have missed the mark, Jack Jennings, the founder of the Center on Education Policy, says the secretary’s push for reforming the law is justified.
“When you have half of American schools classified as failing,” Jennings said, “that shows that the law is too crude.”
Among the states, Florida had the highest percentage of schools failing to make AYP — 89 percent — followed by Missouri, New Mexico, Massachusetts and South Carolina, each of which classified more than 75 percent of their schools as missing the mark.
Overall, 24 states — twice as many as last year — reported that more than half of their schools failed to meet AYP. In Washington, D.C., 87 percent of schools didn’t meet AYP, but that actually represents an improvement from the previous year, when 92 percent fell short of the requirements.