COTTONWOOD - Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001. Since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was developed by George W. Bush's administration, NCLB has been a source of controversy.
As fewer schools are able to meet the annual AYP requirements, the controversy surrounding the academic benchmark is almost certain to grow.
This year in Arizona, only 58 percent of schools statewide were able to get a passing mark for AYP. For administrators of schools who fail AYP, the increasing difficulty of meeting the standards is becoming the real rub.
State Superintendent John Huppenthal complained that the growing federal requirements are not practical for many Arizona schools as well as schools across the United States.
Huppenthal points out that AYP objectives require all student groups at every grade level to meet their specific measurable goals for achievement. Failure of even one group of students to pass the test causes the entire school to fail.
The AYP requirements are based, in part, on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS). In each school, 95 percent of students must take the AIMS test and meet the standards. Other measurements, such as attendance and high school graduation rates are factored into AYP.
Clarkdale-Jerome School was the only local school to make AYP this year. Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor explained how difficult it can be for a school, which is otherwise doing quite well academically, to fail AYP.
"Anything like a flu epidemic can cause a school or district to not make AYP as the attendance or the testing rate could fall below the required target points," Fleenor said. She said another item considered is the yearly attendance rate, which must be at least 94 percent in all grades.
"All students must be tested unless exempted for severe special education issues," she said. "All special education students must demonstrate growth, and all low socio-economic students must demonstrate growth.
"Each academic area in each grade level and each group within that grade level is given a growth indicator," Fleenor said. "All areas must meet the growth indicator. That is set by ADE (Arizona Department of Education) based on past baselines for the school or district."
Mingus Union High School failed to meet AYP this year. Principal Tamara Addis said the reason for the failure is restricted to negative growth in one subgroup area of math.
"A group of students came to Mingus with a high failure rate in mathematics," Addis said. "The teachers at Mingus have worked very hard to take these failing students from failure to passing. We have been successful in that regard, and I fully anticipate that our achievement ranking from the state in the form of AZ LEARNS will demonstrate that growth.
"As state and national testing have changed, the progress made by our students is not easily measured by a test," Addis explained. "But, these things said, we are not giving up on the fact that we will continue to improve. More importantly, we have not and will not give up on these students."
None of the schools in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District achieved a passing status for AYP. Patricia Osborne, director of educational services for the district, explains what the district faces in trying to meet AYP guidelines.
"In order to make AYP, it isn't enough that the general student population of a school achieve benchmarks as an average, but certain subgroups - such as students with disabilities, or minority students - must also achieve the goals," Osborne said. "If a school has a subgroup that fails to meet the mark, the entire school fails.
"For example, at Cottonwood Elementary school, low-socio-economic third graders did not meet the mark in math," Osborne said. "And because Dr. Daniel Bright does not have third grade students, their determination is based upon CES third graders.
"At Cottonwood Middle School eighth grade Hispanic students did not meet the proficiency goal in math; at Oak Creek School and Tavasci Elementary School it was low socio-economic third grade math," Osborne said. "It is important to note that of the 144 ways to fail, COCSD schools met the criteria in the other 143 ways."
Osborne said that the district's general student population did meet the mark in all areas.
Schools not meeting AYP requirements for one year are given a warning. Failure to meet AYP for two consecutive years would result in the school being placed on an improvement program. A third year of failing AYP could result in the state taking over the school.
Arizona's goal is to have all students meeting AYP by 2014.