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No Child Left Behind:
Measuring Adequate Yearly Progress

by Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw




Note: Congress has reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the statute formerly known as No Child Left Behind. The new statute, Every Student Succeeds Act, was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015.


Please answer a question about statewide assessments under NCLB. As I read it, all kids need to be on grade level as measured by statewide assessments. As a psychologist, I don't get it.

1) Grade equivalents are not valid.
2) Students' scores on the state assessment will of course be compared to all of the other students who took the test and they will become the normative sample.

So by definition, 50% will be above average and 50% will be below. Then they will use the same norms for several years which will give the false impression that they are making progress. When it is re-normed we will be in the same situation, 50% above, 50% below.

With this is mind, what are we (educators) going to do? It seems as though President Bush has been visiting Lake Wobegon! Please help me understand this in a future issue.

I have been following your NCLB discussion closely. This is a big topic and my employer has not given us any info. I really appreciate your handouts for parents and educators and administrators.

BTW: I cannot believe how much I am enjoying your two books. I keep one set at home and one set at work!

Sue's Answer

The way No Child Left Behind is written, all children need to test as proficient on state tests of math, reading and science by the year 2014.

In the meantime, the gains the school must make between now and 2014 are broken up into equal increments for each group. These groups are -

* school as a whole,
* children with disabilities,
* children learning English,
* minority children, and
* children from low income families.

Each group must make this increment worth of progress each year. This amount of progress is called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The groups starting out at the lowest levels will need to make the greatest gains per year in order to reach the goal of teaching all children to grade level by 2014.

States will use the proficiency levels, the equivalent of average grade level [Section 1111(b)(1)(D)(ii))(II)], that they have already set for their state tests. This will remain as a constant.

The test will measure the child's performance against the state standards, not against the performance of other students.

I hope this information is helpful.

NCLB Resources

We designed a new No Child Left Behind flyer with links to informational & resources that will answer many of your questions about No Child Left Behind.

A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind. Learn about new requirements for teachers and paraprofessionals, school and school district report cards, annual testing in math and reading, new options including transfers from failing schools and free supplemental services - tutoring, after-school programs and summer school. Printer-friendly version of A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind in pdf to distribute.

No Child Left Behind: What Educators, Principals & Administrators Need to Know. NCLB includes new requirements about educating teachers and paraprofessionals, school and school district report cards, and annual testing of math and reading skills. This article describes "life after NCLB." What Educators Need to Know is also available in a 4 printer-friendly pdf version for distribution.

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Doing Your Homework, Suzanne Whitney gives savvy advice about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Her articles have been reprinted by,,, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that was published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc.

She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC).

Sue Whitney's bio.

Copyright © 2002-2022 by Suzanne Whitney.

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