Looking Beyond AYP

With the release of Alabama’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) scores, there are reasons to both celebrate and remain concerned.

The headline in the Mobile Press-Register Thursday read, “75 percent of Alabama’s schools met academic standards under No Child Left Behind,” leaving 25 percent of Alabama schools not making an AYP passing grade.

In Alabama 1,023 schools met AYP this year, up slightly from last year. Also the number of schools meeting less than 60% proficiency shrunk from 27 schools to 12 in the 2011-12 academic year. There are a total of 1,365 public schools in Alabama, and under NCLB all must reach 100% by 2014.

Slow progress may be better than no progress, but State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice is more concerned with the state’s ability to more effectively assess its systems far beyond the snapshot that AYP gives.

“We’re at the point where AYP has lost its effectiveness,” Bice said. He explained that the federal measure is far too narrow and unrealistic to either provide solid performance measurement or assist with local improvement needs. The state has been granted a “freeze” of NCLB progress levels, called Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs), for the upcoming school year, and is seeking a waiver as it moves forward in implementing its own assessment and accountability system outlined in Plan 2020.

Plan 2020 includes a more comprehensive set of goals and assessments for each school, which will value growth of every individual student more than just overall achievement on a standardized test. Measurements will be based on formative, project-based and summative assessments using benchmarks for each student, and will incorporate career interest and aptitude test results.

“We want to take the focus off the test in the spring so teachers are focused on teaching and learning throughout the year,” Bice said. (AL.com)

Doing so could serve Alabama well in the future. A report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, “A Decade Behind: Breaking Out of the Low Skill Trap in the Southern Economy,” spells out deep concerns over Alabama’s student achievement remaining low, its dropout rate descending too slowly, and the lack of jobs requiring higher levels of education causing a migration of qualified graduates to other states.

“Southern states like Alabama are victimized by having too many low-wage jobs and not enough highly educated residents to get companies paying better wages to come there,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s workforce center and report author. “Alabama is an example of a state kind of stuck over the long-term, lagging further and further behind most of the nation.” (The Birmingham News)

Despite the dire report, Alabama schools are not waiting for federal or state mandates to increase the rigor and raise the bar for student achievement. With the adoption of the College and Career Ready Initiative standards, Alabama is rolling out the higher math standards this year and will add new English-Language Arts standards next year.

Math class will look much different to students. Philip Cleveland of the ALSDE Career-Technical Education and Workforce Development described it as more than just “memorizing facts to regurgitate on a test.” Instead they are learning through practical application and critical thinking, so they will be better prepared for college and career success.

The ALSDE’s Plan 2020 fully embraces the College and Career Ready Initiative standards based on the Common Core State Standards, which infuse more critical thinking and real-life practice of learned knowledge than the former focus on teaching to the test.

Click here for more on Alabama College and Career Ready Initiative standards.

Click here to download the state’s Plan 2020 presentation.