As schools prepare to open for the 2012-2013 academic year, much of the local news in education has revolved around the release last week of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings. The results in Texas were terrible. According to the Texas Education Agency, only 44% of Texas schools met the AYP target for the past school year. Mansfield ISD was one of the many districts that failed to meet AYP as a district.
The underlying premise of NCLB – that schools need to be held accountable for what they teach and the success of every student – is a good one in theory. However, the way NCLB measures accountability makes it almost certain that far fewer schools will meet AYP targets over the next two years.
By the 2013-2014 school year, essentially every student will have to pass standardized tests in Math and Reading for a school to meet the AYP target. Without major changes to the system, almost every school in Texas will fail to meet that standard. Not surprisingly, 26 states have already applied for and received waivers from the Federal Government so that they aren’t required to meet the AYP targets. One major advantage of the waiver is a de-emphasizing of the standardized test results in determining Adequate Yearly Progress.
Aside from the emphasis on standardized testing, another major problem with NCLB as with many federal mandates is that inadequate funding was provided to schools in order to meet its demands. While NCLB has been increasing the standards by which Texas schools are measured, the schools have been stripped of resources by the state legislature. At the same time, local districts have lost significant revenue due to the recession and housing crisis.
In order for students to succeed, schools must provide a safe and effective learning environment. The reaction of most school districts to the loss of funding has been to reduce teacher planning time, increase class sizes, and delay upgrades of curriculum and facilities. Many of these measures have had the opposite effect.
There are no easy answers to the challenges faced by public education. No Child Left Behind was well intended, but it is not working as it was intended. It is time to seek other solutions. Perhaps it is time for Texas to apply for a waiver as over half of the other states have already done.