Reading a No Child Left Behind 'school report card'
by Benjamin Herold and Paul Socolar
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires school districts to provide data about school performance in the form of a "school report card." It reports how well each school performed in reaching targets set under the law, using the following performance measures:
- Test score results by grade for the PSSA (the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, the state's standardized test)
- PSSA test results by group
- PSSA test participation rates by group
- School attendance or graduation rate (for the prior year)
- Percentage of "highly qualified" teachers
- The school's "AYP/School Improvement Status"
Click here for a sample report card with these questions and answers.
What does "proficient" mean and why is it important?
Students who scored "proficient" or better on the PSSA are considered to have done a satisfactory job or better. They have shown that they understand the skills included in Pennsylvania's academic standards and can display those skills when asked. "Advanced" is the highest possible score on the test.
Under No Child Left Behind, schools are supposed to prepare all of their students well enough to score "proficient" by 2014. In order to meet "adequate yearly progress" towards this goal, schools were expected to have 35 percent of students score proficient or better in math and 45 percent in reading in 2003 and 2004. Teachers are expected to "teach to proficiency" - that is, to cover the skills included in Pennsylvania's academic standards - for all students, at a pace that will get through all of the material in a school year.
Why is the information broken down by racial and other groups?
Under NCLB, schools must report all information for the entire school and for specific identified subgroups of students. This is known as "disaggregating" data. Schools must disaggregate their data so that people can determine if all groups of students are performing to expectations.
In Pennsylvania, all subgroups of 40 or more students (broken down by race, ethnicity, low-income status, disability status, migrant student status, and limited English proficiency status) are expected to meet the same proficiency standards. At least 95 percent of students from all subgroups (and from the entire school) are required to take the PSSA for the school to make adequate yearly progress.
Why are attendance/graduation rates listed?
Under NCLB, schools are also expected to meet other performance standards that are not based on PSSA scores. Attendance and graduation rates are considered to be good measured of school success. All schools that have a class of graduating seniors are expected to graduate at least 80 percent of students, or to show improvement in the graduation rates. All schools that do not have a class of graduating seniors are expected to have a daily attendance rate of at least 90 percent for all students, or to show improvement in attendance.
How do I know if my child's teacher is "highly qualified"?
Under NCLB, schools are expected to place a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom for core subjects by 2006. In Pennsylvania, a "highly qualified" teacher must be either fully certified or "intern-certified" by the state for the subject area the teacher is assigned to teach. Intern-certified means that the teacher has a bachelor's degree, is currently enrolled in a certification program, and has passed the state licensing tests in basic skills and in the content area he or she is teaching.
Parents must be notified if a student does not have a "highly qualified" teacher. Studies show that the least-qualified teachers more often end up in the highest-poverty schools and in the schools that have the highest proportion of students of color. Research also shows that having fully certified teachers makes a difference in student achievement.
What does "AYP/School Improvement Status" mean?