The Idiocy of AYP

AYP, or "Adequate Yearly Progress", is one of those seemingly benign terms that pops up in the educational lexicon every few years. AYP sounds...friendly. Unassuming. Who could argue with a reform initiative based on kids, teachers, or schools making "adequate yearly progress"? What are we, communists? Of course we want our schools to make progress...and insisting it be "adequate" doesn't sound too demanding, does it? I mean, how hard could it be to make "adequate" progress? Cmon...


And yet the truth is much harsher. AYP has become an albatross around the neck of school districts rich and poor. It requires that schools demonstrate inexorable, upward rates of progress, no matter their actual measures of success. While AYP may have been intended to exert pressure on "low performing schools," in practice it has created unreasonable pressures and stresses on all kinds of schools, students, teachers, and administrators, and is the policy lever behind much of the cheating that has characterized the worst of the "accountability era" in American education.


At the core of AYP is the notion of accountability--another seemingly benign concept that has taken on draconian undertones when applied to public education. But the blade of accountability seems to only be targeted on those with the least amount of power in the educational equation: children and teachers. How are education policy decision makers, who dream up increasingly punitive measures, held accountable? How are our political leaders, who pass the legislation recommended by these policy makers, held accountable? 


Why is the idea of Adequate Yearly Progress only aimed at the recipients of these policies, and not on those with the power to create supportive working conditions for teachers, and educationally-sound policies that govern schools and learning?


In other words, why don't we have "AYP" for:

  • Providing adequate school funding?
  • Clean, well-maintained facilities?
  • Supportive working conditions?
  • Teacher evaluation systems that are fair, make sense, and focused on helping teachers' improve their practice--not punitive systems designed to demoralize and marginalize?
  • Salary schedules and teacher contracts that fairly compensate teachers, and provide incentives for pursuing professional development opportunities?
  • Adequate support services for all students, including special education, gifted & talented, school nurses, psychologists, and counselors?
  • Rich, vibrant curricular programs in music, art, media, and physical education for all students?
  • School breakfast and lunch programs, so students aren't hungry all day and can concentrate on their classes?

I'm all for assessing Adequate Yearly Progress in our schools, but maybe it's time to start assessing what really matters. Instead of coming up with educational policies designed to punish our most disadvantaged students, schools, and communities, let's start holding those responsible for establishing these punitive policies accountable for the damage they are doing to public education.

Then we might really start making some progress.

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