No Child Left Behind

By on March 23, 2012

Photo: Teacher Diane Pierson’s kindergarten students concentrate in the Listening Lab at Kaneland Blackberry Creek Elementary School in Elburn. Photo by Patti Wilk

Years after passage of the federal law, how is Kaneland dealing with its implementation?
In part 1 of an ongoing series relating to the 10-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, Assistant Editor Keith Beebe took a closer look at the primary measurement tool, Adequate Yearly Progress. In this, part 2, Beebe looks into possible revisions to the law, as well as how Kaneland assesses its own measure of success.

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said in late January that he wasn’t sure many people thought the No Child Left Behind law, when it was passed in January 2002, would make it all the way to its conclusion in 2014 without some type of revision, due to the law’s increasingly stifling Academic Yearly Progress (AYP) requirement.

That revision might be in the works.

According to Schuler, the state of Illinois is currently seeking a waiver in regards to the No Child Left Behind law.

“While all the details regarding the waiver process are not clear, I support (the) need to have something that better measures the progress school districts are making toward our goals of college and career readiness,” Schuler said.

The Kaneland School District, as of 2012, is currently falling short of the bar when it comes to the current AYP meets-and-exceeds requirement (minimum of 92.5 percent meets-and-exceeds). However, Kaneland isn’t the only Illinois school district struggling to keep its head above water when it comes to AYP requirements.

AYP, implemented in 2003, is a measurement tool meant to ensure that every state school improve its standardized test scores in reading and mathematics each year through 2014. It is based on Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) for grades 3-8 and the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) for grade 11. The requirement mandates that a specific percentage of students at those grade levels in every state school meet or exceed the reading and mathematics requirement in place for the year.

In terms of the ISAT test, District 302 has tallied a 90 percent meets-and-exceeds average every year since 2008 (the state’s meets-and-exceeds average is currently 82 percent, up 19 percent from when No Child Left Behind went into effect 10 years ago).

Kaneland High School’s PSAE meets-and-exceeds average is considerably lower than the district’s ISAT scores, but has been at 57 percent the last two years, and is currently six percentage points ahead of the state average. KHS hasn’t met the AYP requirement since 2006 but the state PSAE average has never exceeded 56 percent since the implementation of No Child Left Behind. KHS’ highest PSAE meets-and-exceeds average was 65 percent in 2009.

As a result of scoring below the AYP requirement four consecutive years, Kaneland High School is on Academic Watch Status and eligible for state sanctions.

Erika Schlichter, director of educational services 6-12, said she hopes the NCLB waiver happens, and believes that it is more important to look at multiple indicators of growth, rather than performance on one test each year to determine if a school is making progress.

“For states that do get a waiver, there will still be accountability, and that is good. However, the accountability should be tied to student growth,” Schlichter said. “Also, the government is finding that the punitive nature of the current No Child Left Behind consequences is not promoting improvement in all cases, so we do hope that a waiver is granted.”

So, what would be a fair and realistic AYP requirement at this point?

“I believe a growth measure would be most fair,” Schlichter said. “In other words, individual students and groups of students should show growth in learning within that group over time, rather than comparing the same grade level, year over year, with different students. I also believe that a fair measure would be to look at multiple assessments and indicators.”

Schlichter also cited Kaneland’s Vision 2014 Performance Targets as data containing many different points of measurement to paint an accurate picture of student achievement.

“We do already internally measure multiple points. We would like to see the state do the same,” she said.

There is no guarantee that Illinois will obtain a waiver for No Child Left Behind, but Schuler said he knows the state of Illinois is working hard to position the waiver in a positive manner.

“I am hopeful that the change will more accurately reflect the progress all school districts are making to improve education in our area and state,” he said.