The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires all students to be proficient in the areas of math and reading by 2014. To reach this benchmark, the Iowa Department of Education requires school districts to report annually on "Adequate Yearly Progress". Since 2003, the percentage of students who are required to be proficient increases until reaching 100 percent, in 2014. What this means is that each year, the bar is raised a little higher. Obviously that makes it more difficult to meet the benchmark.
The legislation also asks districts to report on sub-groups including minority, low SES (Socio-economic Status), special education, and ELL (English Language Learner). The benchmarking for all sub-groups is the same. If you saw the news release yesterday from the Des Moines Register on the Iowa Department of Education report, several educators pointed out this very fact to the public.
Please be patient, I know you want to know if we met our AYP, but I think it is important to provide this background information so you have context.
The way that proficiency is determined in Iowa is based on the ITBS/ITED tests, and specifically a student is considered proficient if they score at the 41st percentile. To understand what that means, you first need to understand that a percentile rank, is just that; a rank. Students take the test and are ranked, basically 1-100. If you achieve a 41, that means that you did better than 41 percent of students who took that test. You can see the problem here, can't you?! If we continue to rank students from 1-100 to obtain proficiency, it becomes mathematically impossible for everyone to achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2014.
Incidentally, to further understand how the percentile rank works and how the 41st percentile stacks up, you need to understand that a 50 is the median score, which makes a 41 one standard deviation off the median (for you statisticians out there).
Okay, so here we are in 2012. Yesterday the report came out on the heels of the Education Summit that will be held next week in Des Moines. The report alleges that other states are surpassing Iowa on the NAEP Test (National Assessment of Educational Progress). This is stated even though Iowa students continue to post high scores on ITBS/ITED. The hypothesis is that the Iowa Tests do not possess the rigor that other official assessment do from other states.
There could be some truth to that statement. Back when the standards movement was launched and NCLB came to fruition, Iowa was the only state in the country to not adopt either a statewide set of standards or a state test. Instead, Iowa elected to leave this work up to individual districts and tried to fit a square peg into a round hole by decreeing that the ITBS would be the statewide assessment.
Here we are 10 years later, Common Core is the new buzz word, and work is progressing on a new statewide assessment. I guess we could argue that we are better late than never.
Okay, we have digressed quite a bit in this post, so it is about time to get back to the topic at hand. When a school district misses AYP for any group or sub-group, they are placed on what is referred to as the "watch list". In 2009-2010, Hudson Middle School was on the watch list because one of the sub-groups didn't meet AYP (sorry, I am not giving it up that easy). If a school misses AYP two years in a row, they are designated a SINA (School in Need of Assistance). This is not a fun place to be, nor is it something to aspire to. The problem is, that as long as measuring stick is based on a percentile rank and the bar continues to raise each year, the number of schools designated SINA will increase to a point where mathematically everyone is on the list! Enough suspense already: all of the schools in the Hudson Community School District met Adequate Yearly Progress, we are not on any lists.
That is certainly good news, but it is no time to rest on our laurels. We absolutely need to expect that our schools are superb, and that we are teaching the right things to ensure that our students are prepared to be citizens in the 21st Century. It is imperative that we are not only teaching the right things in our classrooms, but that we are also assessing the right things in our classrooms. Does it make sense to you that we are using a multiple choice test that does not require any writing or critical thinking? Does it make sense that we are using a test that requires a student to fill in a bunch of bubbles with a pencil? Where is the authentic assessment in that?
As I stated earlier, the Education Summit is next week. I am eager to attend and here what the Governor has to say about his plan to make Iowa number one in education again. Here is my final point before I wrap this diatribe up for the week.
NCLB is up for renewal. Wait, NCLB has been up for renewal for several years. The architect of NCLB was Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts (interesting fact: many people blame former President George W. Bush for NCLB; not true). When Senator Kennedy passed away, his chairmanship went to our own Senator Harkin. The honorable Senator will be in attendance at the Summit next week. If you get a chance, please tell him that it is time to get this legislation moving again.
Stay tuned, I will let you know what I learn on Monday.