In a nutshell, the idea that school performance across the country is being measured by a set standard is - well, laughable. Apparently children may not be 'left behind' in Arizona, but those same kids would certainly be eating dust in many other states.
The study was conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington D.C. - a non-profit think tank aimed at improving America's schools. Analysts took 36 real schools and measured each by the NCLB standards of 28 states, finding that adequate progress ratings have just as much - if not more - to do with geography than actual performance.
"This report’s crucial finding is that – contrary to what the average American likely believes – there is no common, nationwide accountability system for measuring school performance under NCLB. The AYP system is idiosyncratic, even random and opaque," said Chester E. Finn, Jr., President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. "Without a common standard to help determine whether a given school is successful or not, its fate under NCLB is determined by a set of arcane rules created by each state."
The Accountability Illusion: An interview with Checkerfrom Education Gadfly on Vimeo.
Arizona is especially lax when it comes to measuring school progrees. Only one other state in the study - Wisconsin - classified more of the 36 sample schools as making adequate yearly progress. Here are some key findings from the Arizona report:
- 3 of 18 elementary schools and 10 of 18 middle schools in the sample failed to make AYP in 2008 under Arizona’s accountability system. Among the 28 accountability systems examined in the study, there's only one state where more schools make AYP than in Arizona (Wisconsin).This makes The Grand Canyon State one of the least restrictive in terms of AYP passage rates.
- Several sample schools made AYP in Arizona that failed to make AYP in most other states. This is probably because Arizona’s proficiency standards are relatively easy compared to other states (especially in reading). Another reason is that Arizona’s definitions for subgroups are grade-based rather than school based, resulting in fewer accountable subgroups (i.e., a school must have at least 40 individuals within a grade for that group to be evaluated). Arizona also uses a very generous confidence interval (or margin of error).
- Nearly all of the schools in the sample that failed to make AYP in Arizona are meeting expected targets for their overall populations, but failing because of the performance of individual subgroups—particularly students with disabilities at the middle school level.
Number of sampled schools that made AYP in 2008, by state