Return to No Child Left Behind impacts school budgets
Because WA balked, districts now back in federal academic standards quagmire, and it's going to cost educational dollars
As the state had its waiver to not follow federal No Child Left Behind standards revoked earlier this year, the Everett School District is preparing for the repercussions.
With the loss of the waiver, districts statewide will be required to re-adapt to the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) guidelines set by the federal government that mandate schools have enough students in each school meeting test standards. The district abandoned these guidelines in fall 2012 when it no longer was a critical issue.
The state’s waiver was revoked because the state does not agree that standardized tests should be used for evaluating teacher performance. Instead of using AYP, districts were mandated by the state to use benchmarks based on the state-created Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project program (TPEP).
With the waiver lost, tests following the AYP standards will be used to determine if a school meets the standards or fails to meet the standards without considering the school’s improvement. There are 41 states that receive the waiver.
According to the AYP standards, schools must be at a 100 percent passing rate this school year, meaning every single child must pass the tests, whether they understand the content of the test or not, or the school will fail.
Students will be tested according to standards that Everett school officials say are now unfamiliar to teachers, as the district has not used them since 2012.
“We’d be holding teachers and students accountable to something they don’t even know where the target is,” Mary Waggoner, district spokeswoman, said. “You wouldn’t ask a surgeon to do a surgery that he’s never done before.”
Defining failing schools
In order to be considered “passing,” schools must have 100 percent of their students meeting AYP’s standards, and AYP is a complicated system.
The benchmarks are tracked in 37 different categories of students, including categories such as low-income students and students enrolled in special education, as well as several ethnic categories. Each student falls into at least two categories — every student can be classified into a race within the system, and they all fall into an “all-student” category just for showing up to school — but some students cross several categories.
Students in all grades are tested in reading and math skills.
Here’s the catch: If any one student category does not meet the 100 percent standard, meaning all students passed the tests, the school is considered failing by AYP’s standards.
The AYP threshold rose to 100 percent after being ratcheted up each year since No Child Left Behind’s implementation in 2001.
But since the state’s standards focus more on improvement and the AYP standards require an overall number of passing students, some schools in the Everett school district that have won state awards for improvement are expected to fail by AYP standards this year.
For example, Madison Elementary earned a 2013 Federal Award for Achievement and is labeled “very good” by state standards. However, Madison is expected to fail AYP standards this year, so parents might be receiving a notice that this school is failing in the same summer that they are celebrating their achievements.
Eisenhower, Evergreen, and Jefferson all rank as “very good” schools by state standards, but are also expected to not meet AYP standards.
This discrepancy, Everett school officials say, is discouraging to students and staff and confusing to parents.
“A kicker in this is that we will have scores for the 2013 tests now underway sometime in August,” Waggoner said. “It is those 2013 tests that determine this fall’s AYP status for schools,” meaning many more schools could fall onto the list.
AYP requires even students who speak English as a second language and special education students to perform as well as all other students in English-language reading and math tests.
“If 100 percent of kids in ELL (English Language Learners classes) could meet the standard, none of them would belong there,” district curriculum and assessment director Catherine Matthews said. “It’s that simple.”
Parents will be receiving letters this summer, after state tests are reviewed, revealing if their students attend schools that failed to meet AYP standards.
Title I is a funding system meant to help schools with above-threshold populations of low-income students.
Schools receiving Title I funds that fail to meet AYP standards will be required to set aside 20 percent of their Title I funds, totaling $535,000 for the district, for two specific purposes.
Ten percent will be used to transport students to other schools.
After receiving letters that their students attend schools that fail to meet standards, parents will have the option to send their students to non-Title I schools that do meet the standard. The school district is required to provide transportation to these schools.
Since teachers hold contracts with the district, they will likely need to move to overcrowded schools after parents elect to have their children attend a different school. This creates the possibility that students could have the same teachers that they would have at their original school.
The other 10 percent will go to supplemental educational services, such as outside tutoring. Tutoring can be provided by organizations outside the district, so the district has no way to guarantee that the Title I funds will go to tutors that meet the district’s required qualifications.
Right now, the district uses Title I funds for extended day and summer school programs, as well as professional development.
“It’s intended to provide additional support for students academically at risk,” Matthews said.
No decisions have been made yet regarding where funds should be pulled to acquire the $535,000 that must now be set aside.
Of the states that have requested a waiver, Washington is the only one to have its waiver revoked.
“They’re not saying that our system is flawed in any way,” Waggoner said. “The refusal to give us the waiver now has nothing to do with the progress of student learning. It only has to do with a disagreement over teacher evaluations.”
The state refused to include standardized tests in their teacher evaluations for a few reasons. For one, it is possible for a student to improve by more than a year but still not meet AYP standards if they were more than one year behind when school started. Also, only math and English teachers would be required to have these evaluations, as there are no standardized tests for other subjects, such as science, music or physical education.
Since 2005, Everett schools have received 75 state honors for improvement.
Snohomish district prepared for NCLB
The Snohomish School District does not face the same budget pressures as other districts regarding No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards.
A school official said the district is prepared to bring NCLB back into its schools.
The district has money set aside for rainy day issues, which is derived from a $600,000 federal grant.
“We’re just going back to the way it was before, with more layers of identification,” said Scott Peacock, executive director of teaching and learning services for the Snohomish School District.
These additional layers of identification include testing standards, tutoring, and basically a blanket bar or standard that all students will have to meet.
The district has the funding ready and already implemented in the 2014-2015 school year budget.
School curriculum will not be affected. Data collected from previous years with NCLB will be used to locate any “at risk” students or “primary focus” schools that need more attention in order to meet the AYP standards.
“The underlying issue is, there are multiple ways to determine whether students are meeting standards,” Peacock said. “One test doesn’t give us (all that information).”