This week, the Connecticut Department of Education announced that nearly half — 47 percent — of the state’s schools failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the guidelines set forth by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act. Nearly all of the district's 20 schools failed to meet the federal guidelines of proficiency in reading and mathematics, with the being the only exception.
Connecticut schools and Stamford, in particular, have shown improvement on statewide tests, including the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT) and the Connecticut Achievement and Performance Test (CAPT), those failing to meet the NCLB standards have dropped. One of the reasons being, said SPS Director of Research Judith Singer, is the moving NCLB target.
“The standards for meeting AYP increased by 10 percentage points between 2010 and 2011,” said Singer. “If we could use last year’s standards against this year’s test results, many schools would be in the clear.”
This year, 90 percent of students are expected to be proficient in reading and mathematics. NCLB, which was enacted in 2002, mandates 100 percent proficiency for all students by 2014. Educators and legislators have argued that the mandates set forth by NCLB are unrealistic due to lack of funding and don’t reflect gains that some schools have made.
, for example, is one school that has made great strides, but is still failing to make AYP under national standards. Former principal William Johnson that while he does not have a problem with accountability, he does wish the state would look at the whole picture. For instance, a student who came to the school knowing little to know English may make great gains in learning the language, but if they did poorly on the CMTs that achievement is not recognized. Stark, along with other schools in Stamford, also have a transient population and many students only attend seasonally when jobs are available here for their families.
“These are not excuses, but this does create huge learning gaps and you find regression," Johnson said.
“It is particularly difficult for urban districts such as Stamford,” said Singer. According to Singer, students are evaluated in multiple categories including demographics. If a school has less than 40 students in that category it is not evaluated and, therefore, smaller districts with less diversity are not evaluated the same as large, urban districts.
NCLB has been up for reauthorization in Congress for years, however, has continued to be sidestepped by other legislation. When it is addressed, many educators and legislators hope to see revisions included to evaluate schools on a more holistic level.
“We are working directly with 18 of Connecticut’s largest districts— identified under State accountability legislation — to help them turn around schools that have been struggling for years,” Connecticut’s Acting Education Commissioner George Coleman said in a press release released by state’s Department of Education. “It is very difficult to overcome the effects of poverty with limited school resources, but our work to employ effective strategies that help close the gaps in student performance is beginning to show results.”