State creates new ways to meet AYP targets
by Eva Travers
With test scores rising at most schools, the number of schools in the School District of Philadelphia making adequate yearly progress soared from 58 to 160 this year, and 20 Philadelphia charter schools met AYP targets, compared to only four last year.
While hard work on the part of students and focused instruction on the part of teachers account for some portion of the improvement, a key factor in the increased numbers of Philadelphia public schools achieving AYP was the easing of the state regulations under the No Child Left Behind Act.
After high rates of failure to achieve AYP across the nation and criticisms by policy makers and educators that AYP targets were "unrealistic," especially for schools reporting data for many subgroups, the U.S. Department of Education allowed the majority of states to modify their AYP standards for this year.
In Pennsylvania, changes in state regulations made it easier to achieve AYP in the areas of attendance and graduation rates.
On the PSSA, Pennsylvania added a statistical adjustment called "confidence intervals" to the calculation of both the standard AYP and "safe harbor" AYP designations to allow room for the possibility of a sampling error (see 'No Child Left Behind' and AYP in Pennsylvania).
Pennsylvania also standardized its appeals process and provided greater flexibility in reporting the scores of limited English proficient students in school and subgroup totals.
"Many decisions [about changes] were based on lessons learned by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, while others are a result of the new flexibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education," said a Pennsylvania Department of Education statement.
According to an October 28 Philadelphia Inquirer report by Dan Hardy, if the Pennsylvania AYP rules in place in 2003 had been applied again in 2004, the portion of Pennsylvania schools making AYP would have been only 61 percent instead of 81 percent. Last year, 63 percent of schools in Pennsylvania made AYP.
In Philadelphia, according to the Inquirer analysis, 39 District schools and 12 charters would not have achieved AYP if the 2003 standards were still in place. But the rules changes account for less than half the increase in the number of District schools making AYP.
Under the revised Pennsylvania rules, schools had five different ways to meet their proficiency targets:
- 55 School District schools in Philadelphia met or exceeded the AYP targets of 45 percent proficiency in reading and 35 percent in math, as did four charter schools.
24 District schools met AYP targets with the help of a confidence interval, as did five charter schools.
17 District schools in Philadelphia met AYP by safe harbor - reducing the percentage of students below proficient by 10 percent - as did two charter schools.
29 District schools met safe harbor targets through the help of a confidence interval, as did five charter schools.
19 District schools met AYP through the "appeals process," as did four charter schools. Most of these made AYP by documenting that their schools made "significant growth" on the Pennsylvania Performance Index.
In addition, 16 K-4 public schools made AYP based on other standardized test results and school performance data.
Next year, the AYP bar in Pennsylvania will be raised, with schools facing targets of 54 percent proficiency in reading and 45 percent in math.