Questions parents can ask about AYP and school performance
by Baruch Kintisch
The No Child Left Behind Act has many provisions addressing school performance and school improvement that give parents new information, new options, and new power. Here are some guiding questions for parents about particular topics they may be interested in investigating at their schools.
1. School performance information. Is the school telling parents and the community about the AYP results each year? Are we satisfied with the AYP report cards issued by the school and the District? How can the school do a better job in sharing this information with the public?
2. School AYP status. At what stage of school reform is the school? Is it making AYP? Has it received a "warning"? Is it in "school improvement," "corrective action," or "restructuring"? Is it "making progress"? Is the school taking the actions required for each stage?
3. Help in school improvement. What kind of extra help are the District and the state giving to the school, such as school improvement teams, new funding, updated curriculum and technology, or training for the teachers?
4. Teacher quality. How many teachers in the school are not qualified, inexperienced, or teaching out of their field? Is the school telling parents when their children are being taught by teachers that don't meet the state's definition of "highly qualified"? Is the school giving extra help to these teachers, such as training, mentoring, and close supervision?
5. Achievement gaps. What is the real achievement of the different student groups in the school, based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, migrant status, English proficiency, and poverty? Does the school have an achievement gap, where some student groups are doing better than others? Why is this happening? What can we do to stop leaving some students behind?
6. Students falling behind. Even if the school made AYP, are we truly satisfied with how all students are doing? What is the school doing to help all the students who aren't proficient? What afterschool or remedial programs are offered, and how many students qualify and attend? Are students with disabilities and English language learners getting the special services they deserve?
7. Parent involvement in classrooms. Is the school encouraging parents to get involved in their children's classrooms? Is it possible to meet with the teachers and schedule time to observe the classroom? Are teachers sending home frequent progress reports? Are teachers asking parents to help make academic improvement plans for each student, based on the PSSA results?
8. Parent involvement in decisions. Is the school getting parents involved in making school reform plans? Does the school have a parent involvement plan and budget? Does the school hold meetings where parents can learn about and help to develop these things?
9. Transfers. Is the District following the transfer rules for students in schools that do not make AYP? Is the principal helping parents file an application for an NCLB transfer? Is the District offering parents enough good schools as choices to consider for transfers? Are transfer applications being improperly denied?
10. Tutoring. Is the District following the tutoring rules for students in schools that do not make AYP? Is the principal helping parents file an application for NCLB tutoring? Is the District ensuring parents enough good choices for tutoring providers? Are the tutoring providers coordinating their work with the teachers in school?