Kentucky’s state commissioner of education Terry Holiday announced
recently that he plans to request a waiver from the US Department of
Education that would allow Kentucky to drop the adequate yearly progress
(AYP) requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind
law- NCLB. Under NCLB schools must meet yearly goals for the percentage of
students that score at the proficient level on state standardized
examinations. For schools to “make AYP” they must meet these proficiency
targets for the entire school population as well as for subgroups of
students including African Americans, whites, Hispanics, ESL, special
education, free/reduced lunch, etc. These targets get markedly higher
from year to year as we approach the 2014 NCLB goal of having every
student at the proficient-level in reading/language arts and

Because these targets get higher and higher every year, schools find it
harder and harder to reach them, resulting in increased numbers of
schools every year that do not “make AYP” and are labeled as “failing
schools.” I am sure that Kentucky will not be alone in requesting an
exemption from the AYP requirement, and my guess is that US Department
of Education will grant states some type of waiver from the requirement.
AYP will have to be revamped entirely if not totally abandoned with the
coming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(ESEA). There is little disagreement that the current system is a flawed
one. The goal of having every student proficient in reading/language
arts and mathematics is a laudable but lofty one, and the wisdom
labeling a school as a failing one because every student has not met the
proficiency standard is debatable.

With that said, I believe NCLB through AYP has made a positive
contribution to how we conceptualize school accountability. No more are
the days that a school which does not tend to the learning needs of all
of its students can be considered a good one. I believe we owe much of
that change in our collective consciousness to NCLB and AYP. My hope is
that we will be able to salvage this and other positive contributions
that NCLB has made to our thinking about accountability and move ahead
with new, innovative models of accountability. States like Kentucky are
preparing to push the envelope on school accountability, and I expect
that the innovative efforts of our states will lead the nation into a
new paradigm of school accountability.

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