Trends and Numbers from the NEA (NCLB)

In and among the predictable rhetoric, there are some interesting new numbers and trends highlighted in a recent memo prepared by NEA guru Joel Packer.

The Packer memo (not yet available online) confirms that the number of schools not making AYP has dropped -- from roughly 23,000 schools in 2003 to roughly 18,000 in 2004. Of the 41 states that provided data, 32 had decreases. Federal rule changes, state accountability plan changes, and the use of the same minimum threshold score for the past two years are some of the contributing factors, according to Packer.

Hopefully there's some academic improvement in there as well, but in any case that's not that big a number -- roughly 1 school not making AYP last year for every school district in the country. The Center on Education Policy analysis of 35 state plan changes from two weeks ago generally confirmed impact of the changes on AYP numbers.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the memo also finds that the number of schools "in need of improvement" (in their second or third year of not making AYP) is up sharply, from about 6,000 schools in 2003 to 10,000 schools in 2004. Forty of the 47 states with data reported increased numbers of schools in need of improvement, according to Packer. And among states with data on districts as well as schools, Packer finds that the percentage of districts in need of improvement ins greater than the percentage of schools.

Again, these numbers are incomplete and unverified, but if even somewhat accurate these numbers are probably lower than you might think, based on most press coverage. Obviously the percentages are much higher in urban areas. But it's a good reality check.

Last but not least, Packer reminds us all that the numbers are likely to go back up this spring, regardless of actual academic progress, because most states have higher minimum AYP thresholds for 2005 than for the previous two years.


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