New York Schools: An Unprecedented 1,325 Identified For Improvement Under No Child Left Behind

An unprecedented 1,325 schools across 123 New York districts have been identified for improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Of those named, 847 schools and 89 districts are newly identified as needing improvement, numbers well above last year's 102 schools across four school districts that were then newly identified for improvement.

"This is just further evidence – as if we needed any – that we must move forward to reform our schools and change what is happening in our classrooms," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement Thursday. "Our goal is to ensure every student graduates from high school college- and career-ready. These numbers show that too many schools are moving in the opposite direction. The Regents have adopted strong new reforms to improve student performance and increase accountability. If student performance doesn’t improve, schools must be held accountable. We
are watching."

The state's Board of Regents is developing a reform agenda that focuses on sustained long-term improved student achievement, and the state has adopted the national Common Core Learning Standards.

Although New York didn't file a notice of intention by an October deadline for No Child Left Behind waivers, the Board of Regents says the state is considering ways the waivers can help New York lessen focus on certain mandates in the law that have proven ineffective in New York's education system.

"While the 2014 NCLB deadline for proficiency for all may not be achieved, it's the right goal and it should be our goal," State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. said in a statement Thursday. "Our students are not graduating with the skills they need to succeed in college and careers. That has to change, and change now."

State officials say that the drastic increase in the number of schools that failed to make Annual Yearly Progress can be attributed to a number of factors:

  • Sunset in 2009-10 of a statistical adjustment for the students with disabilities subgroup that has made it more difficult for this group to demonstrate AYP.
  • Change in grades 3-8 English language arts (ELA) and math testing dates, which requires students to show greater learning has occurred because tests are given later in the school year.
  • Change in the methodology for equating grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, which eliminate a tendency to overcompensate for the comparable difficulty of tests from one year to the next.
  • Changes to the grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, making them less predictable.
  • Increase in the high school graduation rate goal and progress targets, which have substantially raised the percentage of students who must graduate or the yearly increase in the percentage of graduates in order for a school or district to make AYP.

The state commissioner will also identify persistently lowest-achieving schools later in the academic year -- those that are among the lowest performing 5 percent of schools based on a combination of school performance and standardized tests, and those that have graduation rates below 60 percent for three consecutive years. Districts with schools that are identified as persistently lowest-achieving must submit a plan that would implement one of the four federally mandated intervention methods of turnaround, restart, closure or transformation.

In August, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that they had raised $1.5 million in private donations to fund the Regents Exam's January administration. The exam was canceled to account for an $8 million state testing budget deficit, and the initial loss of the January administration threatened many students' ability to make up failed tests, graduate or graduate early.

The large number of New York schools failing to meet AYP comes amid a report that student scores on the nation's most reliable reading and math exam are still low and achievement gaps among students of varying races and incomes remain wide. Among the findings: just 40 percent of 4th graders and 35 percent of 8th grade students are performing at or above a level of proficiency in math, and just 34 percent in both grades tested proficient in reading.