Friday, September 27, 2013

Federal Accountability and AYP

Early this week we sent out a letter to the parents of each student in the school district that has not met Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by the 2001 'No Child Left Behind Law'. If you happened to read the Courier on Wednesday you probably saw that this coincided with the release of the State Report card. This also was followed up with a statement from Dr. Brad Buck, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education outlining the fact that these results show a need for a new federal accountability framework. We have fielded a few questions ranging from concern of parents to questions about whether or not this is something new we are doing in the district. It is something new, and it was designed in an effort to do several things.

First, it was meant to provide you with valuable information regarding the academic progress of your child. While we send the results of the Iowa Assessments home every year, they are not the easiest to interpret. When evaluating the results of the test, unless one has an understanding of statistical modeling and standard deviation the results can be difficult to understand and interpret.

Second, it is important to note that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires that all students be proficient by 2014. This law does not differentiate between general education students, special education students, or any other subgroup of students. And, 2014 is almost here so this becomes even more timely.

This brings me to the next point, which is the flawed nature of NCLB. Aside from the fact that it is mathematically impossible to use a norm referenced test (when students are ranked, someone will be at the bottom) to achieve 100% proficiency, we agree with Dr. Buck's assessment that a 'one size fits all' federal accountability model is unfair and fails to recognize the growth that our students make. Consider this: 869 of 1,361 schools in Iowa missed federal guidelines for the 2012-2013 school year. 

All that being said, we still take student achievement very seriously and want to do everything we can to ensure the success of all children in the district--regardless of any mitigating factors (that get in the way). In order to do this, we truly value your input and partnership.

So as parents, what are you to do? First, we are happy to know that this letter serves as a catalyst for discussion among families and we welcome the conversations this will generate. If you have questions about instructional strategies or your child's individual achievement, please contact your child's teacher! If you have questions about interpreting the child's achievement data, please contact your child's principal. Finally, I would encourage you to contact members of Congress and tell them that the time for action to re-authorize the NCLB Act is now! It is time to stop with these punitive and arbitrary accountability measures and instead begin to focus on a research based student growth model. You can find out how to contact members of Congress right here.

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