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No Educator Left Behind is a series providing answers from the U.S. Department of Education to questions about the federal No Child Left Behind Act and how it will affect educators. If you have a question about No Child Left Behind, send an e-mail to Ellen Delisio, and we will submit your question to the Department of Education.

Question:

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, is there a way to compare adequate yearly progress among states?

U.S. Department of Education:

Not directly, but there are ways to review the standards in different states.

Each state sets its own academic content standards, decides what constitutes proficiency on state standards, and develops its own assessments. This is appropriate because education is primarily a state and local issue. But while education is a state and local responsibility, it is a national priority.

The different methods for calculating how well children are learning according to state standards, referred to as adequate yearly progress (AYP), vary from state to state. Existing state definitions of AYP were developed with considerable state input under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, when it was reauthorized in 1994.

Moving forward under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), states are implementing new measures of AYP that hold schools accountable for the progress of all students, as well as specific student subgroups. What is different about NCLB is that definitions of AYP [are designed to] result in all children becoming proficient [in certain skills] by 2013-14.

A number of private groups are attempting to compare the relative rigor and complexity of state standards and state accountability systems. Among those groups are the Fordham Foundation, Education Week's Quality Counts report, and Achieve. All provide information on the Web.

Another important component of NCLB is the requirement that states participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in mathematics and reading at grades 4 and 8. This common measure will allow states and the public to compare the relative achievement of students in all of the states.

The AYP measure may be integrated into state accountability systems or become the sole measure of progress. Either way, states will have more consistent ways of measuring whether schools and districts are educating students well. Content standards and assessments in each state will continue to differ, since those ideas are shaped by the local districts context and goals for their students.

All states submitted their state accountability plans and definitions of AYP to the U.S. Department of Education by January 31, and those plans are under review. Once the state plans are approved, they will be posted on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site for public access. The five state plans already approved can be seen at State Accountability Plans under the Consolidated Application Process.

Read previous questions and answers in our No Educator Left Behind archive.

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