Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)* – Making A+ schools look like failures. How Florida Hitched Itself to a Flawed System of Accountability 07/06/09

*Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), HB 991, a priority of Education Commissioner Dr. Eric Smith was signed into law last month by Governor Crist.  Required as part of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act, AYP measures schools based on a pass/fail system.  To achieve AYP, schools must meet proficiency benchmarks in 39 separate criteria.  If a school fails to meet one of the 39 criteria, it does not make AYP.  Using complex formulas, our schools will now be evaluated by both the FCAT and AYP. 

Here’s the critical point:  Even if your school has been an A+ school for years – if any of the 39 subgroups of students (learning disabilities, low readers, etc) fail to make adequate yearly progress, the entire school fails.  Your A+ school will be immediately subject to sanctions and urged to bring all sub-groups of students up to Adequate Yearly Progress proficiencies. 

Your principals will have to make this quantum leap in progress WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL MONEY.  There will be no new instructors, programs or support.  So, all of the other kids will lose, in effect, in order to bring these struggling subgroups up to speed

Teachers: you can work night and day with a subgroup, show gains in learning of 1 to 2 years from your students beginning of the year baseline, yet if your gains don’t meet AYP Proficiency under differentiated accountability– you and your kids will be deemed failures.  Helping a child advance a year or two within a school year is huge.  It is a success.  You and your kids are doing a great job.  But, this success, this critical part of the puzzle, is not measured or acknowledged under the strict pass/fail of AYP.

In fact, all students will suffer under this system. Focusing solely on the bottom tier robs the top tier of potential as well.  Every child in every group is left unfunded.  Where’s the excellence?  Where’s the high-quality?

Even in the best of the best schools, the highest AYP achievement hovers between 89% and 92%.  Sanctions range from something called Prevent I to Intervene.  At best, your principals will struggle to make AYP gains in an atmosphere that is unfunded, punitive and desperate.  At worst, after three to four brief years, your principal, teachers and your kids could be moved around the county and sent to schools that you never intended them to attend.

You need the truth.  You bought your home based on the fact that the FCAT-driven A+ – F grading system was real.  You’ve been assured over and over by legislators that these grades definegd progress in Florida’s public schools.  You bought your home with confidence in an A+ district.  Your realtor even stressed it to you. 

Right now, education funding is based on property taxes.  If our schools can’t maintain their A+ status, our biggest financial investment – living in a desirable district – is diminished.

Florida’s huge dropout rate ranks us 5th in the nation (57.5% according to Education Week/2006) and early childhood experts warn that kids enter public school in deficit mode because we lack an effective system of early childhood intervention (ages 3-5).  The data shows that many of these kids just never catch up.  The task of achieving AYP is enormous. 

Is this a worthy effort?  Certainly. These kids really need and deserve help. Does it have teeth?  It’s hard to truly envision schools being “reconstituted” on any scale.  The real issue is this: HB 991 provided no funding for most of this mandate (the State provides some support at the Correct II level and above) and now our schools, teachers, principals and kids working under great duress, are charged with doing the impossible with almost nothing.


We promised you some summer reading!  See below:

 AYP In-depth

It’s essential that we all understand this critical change in how we assess our schools.  It’s dense material, but for our kid’s sake, must take the time to fully understand this issue.  Legislators have done this for years…make sure the details cause the voters eyes to glaze over. 

Each of us has to be able to articulate the reasons why HB 991 will have a long-term negative effect on public education in Florida.


The Florida Legislature passed HB 991 this session, prematurely requiring that all schools make AYP or face repercussions.  Florida legislators decided on their own to adopt AYP nearly 4 years before 2013, when full compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act becomes law.  It’s notable that there was no additional funding included in this bill for implementation. 

What does it mean? 

For years now, the FCAT-driven A+ – F grading system was all anyone talked about.  These grades defined progress in Florida’s public schools. 

Last year, Florida became one of six states participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s Differentiated Accountability pilot program.  It allowed Florida to classify schools in need of improvement into several categories based on their state assigned grade.  During this time, only Title 1 schools (who receive federal funds for low-income students) and the D and F schools were measured against AYP.

This year, officials felt that if AYP was good enough for Title 1 schools, it was good enough for all schools.  While no one can argue that rigorous attempts to rescue and lift up struggling schools and students are an essential duty of public education, the fact is that if an A+ school fails to make AYP for two consecutive years, a series of sanctions start to take effect. 

Here’s a snapshot

According to the state FCAT results released by the FDOE, a record percentage of the state’s public schools are doing “A” work.  62% of all public schools in Florida received an A and only 44 schools, less than 1% received an F.  That sounds great.

However, this year only 23% of Florida Schools – 785 out of 3,324 made Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Why the huge difference in results?

Individual school grades are based on FCAT scores and improvement from year to year.  One test. One score. One day in the life of a child.

Adequate Yearly Progress is measured against at least 39 different criteria. Factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability and English proficiency are all part of what’s used to measure improvement from year to year in every school.  

The premise behind NCLB and AYP is to underscore subgroups of students who are struggling.  The result: everyone will focus on helping these subgroups improve.

It’s easy for a school to fail AYP 

It only takes one subgroup of children, such as those learning to speak English or those who are severely disabled, who might not do as well as the federal government says it should, to keep an entire school from making AYP.  If a child falls into several categories his or her failure to meet AYP will be accessed against the school for each of the criteria, counting that one child against the school’s AYP score several times.

Categories for schools not meeting AYP are: Prevent I, Prevent II, Correct I, Correct II, and Intervene.  Prevent I refers to A, B, C and ungraded schools that have met 80% of AYP. The correction requires the school to provide additional support to struggling students. 

Each category involves progressively lower letter grades, the loss of financial incentives and increased oversight/jjsupport and sanctions from district and state government.  Finally, if a school is in the Intervene category, it can be reconstituted, which means that principals, teachers and students might be fired or moved to other schools all with an eye to reconstituting or rebuilding the school from the inside out.  (See the link below for specifics.) 

Mandated AYP is not funded by the state education budget

Unless your school is a Title I school, all of the intervention and support for the struggling students in Prevent I is unfunded. 

Prevent I represents 1,868 schools or nearly 2/3 of the 2,317 that did not make AYP.    All gains must be made within the existing resources and staff of the school.  Since each district has suffered huge cuts during the last two years, many are functioning on a very lean staff and money for materials has been severely reduced.  There is tremendous stress and pressure on teachers to coax progress from students who are truly struggling on several levels.

Inadequate Oversight

Additionally, during the pilot Differentiated Accountability Program, FDOE created 5 regional centers, each led by a director versed in improving low-performing schools.  The workload when only Title 1 and D & F schools were measuring AYP was under 40 schools.   Can you imagine the largely unfunded task of dealing with potentially hundreds of schools?  The overwhelming workload has the potential to give way to efficiencies which will lead to cookie-cutter solutions.  Clearly, each district’s power to teach at the local level will be eroded and any great strides towards excellence will suffer.

Kids who start out in the lower levels have many stresses.  Forcing them to bear the enormous weight of whether their school passes or fails is just too much. 

 Additional Reading

AYP Discipline plans from Prevent I to Intervene


Author: fundeducationnow

Fund Education is permanent grass roots, non-partisan group created by parents to inspire and empower voters to advocate on behalf of Florida's children. We believe that Florida's public education crisis is about more than money. Parents, long silent on this subject, must now stand up and lead the discussion and clearly articulate what we, the end-users of public education, want and expect for our kids and our state.

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