No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers
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What is "adequate yearly progress"? How does measuring it help to improve schools?

No Child Left Behind requires each state to define adequate yearly progress (AYP) for school districts and schools, within the parameters set by NCLB. In defining AYP, each state sets the minimum levels of improvement--measurable in terms of student performance--that school districts and schools must achieve within time frames specified in the law. In general, it works like this: Each state begins by setting a starting point that is based on the performance of its lowest-achieving demographic group or of the lowest-achieving schools in the state, whichever is higher. The state then sets the level of student achievement that a school must attain in order to make AYP. Subsequent thresholds must increase at least once every three years, until, at the end of 12 years, all students in the state are achieving at the proficient level on state assessments in reading and language arts, math and science.

English Language Learners: For newly arrived, first-year English language learners (ELL), states may, but are not required to, include results from the math and, if given, reading and language arts content assessments in adequate yearly progress(AYP) calculations. Either way, students taking both the math and English language proficiency (ELP) assessment would count toward the NCLB requirement that 95 percent of all students participate in the state assessments. Schools and districts can also get credit for ELL students who have attained English language proficiency as part of the ELL subgroup for up to two additional years after they have become English proficient. This way, schools are not penalized for doing an excellent job helping students become proficient in English. For more information go to

Students With Disabilities: When measuring AYP, states and school districts have the flexibility to count the "proficient" (passing) scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards--as long as the number of those proficient scores does not exceed 1 percent of all students in the grades assessed, which amounts to about 9 percent of students with disabilities. (The 1 percent cap is based on current incidence rates of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, allowing for reasonable local variation in prevalence.) For more information, visit

Uniform Averaging Procedure: States have the opportunity to determine how many years of data will be used to make an adequate yearly progress (AYP) determination. States may use one, two or three years of data in calculating AYP. Further, states have the latitude to compare one year of data to two or three years of data in making final AYP determinations. This flexibility enables a state to give schools the benefit of recent improvements (with one year of data) or limit the effect of poor achievement in one year (with two or three years of data). In addition, states can apply this averaging procedure to their 95 percent testing requirement. For more information, visit

What happens when a school does not make adequate yearly progress (AYP)?

When a school does not make AYP for two consecutive years, it is identified as in need of improvement. States and districts must provide resources and assistance to support it in making meaningful changes that will improve its performance. Title I funds are set aside by state to use specifically for these schools. No Child Left Behind lays out an action plan and timetable for steps to be taken when a Title I school does not improve, as follows:

  • Second Year: A Title I school that has not made AYP, as defined by the state, for two consecutive school years will be identified by the district as needing improvement before the beginning of the next school year. School officials will develop a two-year plan to turn around the school. The district will ensure that the school receives needed technical assistance as it develops and implements its improvement plan. Students must be offered the option of transferring to another public school in the district--which may include a public charter school--that has not been identified as needing school improvement.
  • Third Year: If the school does not make AYP for three years, the school remains in school-improvement status, and the district must continue to offer public school choice to all students. In addition, students from low-income families are eligible to receive supplemental educational services, such as tutoring or remedial classes, from a provider who is approved by the state and selected by parents.
  • Fourth Year: If the school does not make AYP for four years, the district must implement certain corrective actions to improve the school, such as replacing certain staff or fully implementing a new curriculum, while continuing to offer public school choice for all, as well as supplemental educational services for low-income students.
  • Fifth Year: If the school does not make AYP for a fifth year, the district must initiate plans for restructuring the school. This may include reopening the school as a charter school, replacing all or most of the school staff, or turning over school operations either to the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness.

Teachers may go to, to view a webcast on school and district improvement.

How are teachers or schools that raise student achievement rewarded?

No Child Left Behind requires states to provide state academic achievement awards to schools that close achievement gaps between groups of students or that exceed academic achievement goals. States may also financially reward teachers in schools that receive academic achievement awards. In addition, states must designate as "distinguished" schools that have made the greatest gains in closing the achievement gap or in exceeding achievement goals.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009