“Accountability” is a big word with a big meaning. Accountability means taking responsibility. Our national and state education laws now hold every public school responsible for the academic performance of every one of its students —regardless of the student’s race or ethnicity, whether the student is rich, poor, disabled, or learning English as a new language.
The Massachusetts School and District Accountability System holds schools accountable for educating all students to high standards and for making sure all children are learning. This system requires all public schools, including charter schools, to communicate to their students, their parents, and to the whole community where they are succeeding and where there is still work to do.
The system also holds students accountable for doing their best. In order to earn their high school diploma, students must earn a Competency Determination that is based on their MCAS scores.
Accountability begins with a Goal
The national goal is that all students will be proficient or better in Math and Reading (also called English Language Arts) by the 2013-14 school year. “Proficient” means that the student is at grade level. The accountability system helps to make sure that all students are making enough progress to meet the goal.
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
AYP is the measure of yearly progress toward all students achieving at or above grade level in English language arts and mathematics by the 2013-14 school year.
AYP determinations are based on four factors:
1. Participation – At least 95% of students must participate in MCAS tests
2. Performance or Improvement – Based on students’ scores on MCAS tests
3. Attendance (for elementary & middle schools) – at least 92% annual attendance rates or 1% improvement in attendance
4. Graduation rate for high schools – A graduation rate of at least 65% or show improvement
AYP is important because it measures progress of all groups of students. In the past, schools could appear to be providing a good education if the average scores were high. In reality, these averages often hid the fact that specific groups of students were not making academic progress. Today, if just one student group at a school does not meet an AYP goal, then the school does not make AYP for that year. In this way, schools are held accountable for making sure all groups of student make progress, even those who have been left behind in the past. Student groups include:
(1) All students in the school, and students who are
(3) African American
(5) Native American
(7) Economically disadvantaged
(8) English language learners
(9) Students with disabilities
School Report Cards
Simply testing students is not enough to hold schools accountable. Parents, students, and the general public have to be informed of the test results. Every year, school districts that receive Title I funds must prepare a Report Card for the individual public schools in that district. It must give details of the schools’ performance in each AYP element for the total school and for each student group. (For more on NCLB School Report Cards, please see our Pointers on that topic.)
For schools that receive federal Title I funding, the school’s AYP performance is also use to make special options available to students. To learn more about these options, please see our Bulletin on “Free Tutoring Available under the No Child Left Behind Act” and our Pointers on “Public School Choice Under NCLB.”
In addition to School Report Cards, parents receive a “Parent/Guardian Report” that gives details about their own child’s performance on MCAS assessments. To learn more about reports on individual students, please see our Bulletin “MCAS Parent/Guardian Report: A Roadmap.”
Failure to Make AYP
In addition to the special options mentioned above that Title I schools must make available to families if they do not meet their AYP goals, NCLB also lays out an action plan to help districts and schools that are not meeting AYP goals. First, the district identifies the kind of help a school needs. Districts provide technical assistance and help the school administrators develop and carry out a school improvement plan with parental input. The plan might include professional development for teachers, or possibly a new curriculum. The point is to help schools in their efforts to improve student achievement.
Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Resources on NCLB and AYP
Information on No Child Left Behind For Parents and Guardians
• AYP Facts
NCLB Report Cards
School Choice Programs
Supplemental Educational Services
• School Leaders’ Guide to the 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Reports”