Student Achievement › Standards
For the last decade, all public schools nationally have been graded or "classified" according to whether or not their students achieved certain academic goals.
Parents and the public need to know if the on-going improvements at their schools are succeeding — not just succeeding in general, but for all students, including those with special challenges.
For this reason, the federal No Child Left Behind Act, known as NCLB (January 2002) required all states to collect data that would show each school's progress on as many as 37 different "targets." The targets include annual achievement goals in both mathematics and English language arts (ELA), broken out by student characteristics including racial categories, special education, gender and poverty status. Large, urban and highly-diverse schools tend to have significantly more targets to meet than small or homogeneous schools. All schools must have at least 95% of their students participating in each test. And K-8 schools need to meet attendance goals while high schools must meet graduation-rate targets.
NCLB set as a goal the year 2014 when all students would reach proficiency. States measured the gap between their students' baseline test scores in 2002, and 100% proficiency in 2014. States then divided that gap into at least five stair-step increases in the academic targets for math and ELA, to push schools to get students on track to 100% proficiency. This law remains in effect but is expected to undergo major revisions in the foreseeable future.
For parents and the public, NCLB produced three great benefits:
- The law both forced and helped states to build robust data systems to support increased accountability requirements and help schools and districts get the data they need to improve outcomes for students.
- The law shines a much-needed light on previously under-served populations, such as low-income children, whose test scores can be masked when looking at overall school performance.
- Until this past year, the requirement to make "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) gave the public some sense of whether individual schools were making progress in their efforts to improve their curriculum, the quality of their teaching, school climate and so forth. In 2012 Rhode Island applied for and received waivers from some of the NCLB stipulations, which has changed the measures for how progress is assessed and now calls it "Growth" instead of AYP.