Selecting one story and hiding others: How AYP chooses the portrayal of a school

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This article discusses how the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability mechanism of No Child Left Behind makes use of supposedly objective standardized test scores to describe schools in a certain way when the same results could serve to draw very different conclusions. Examining the proficiency scores of students from a specific middle school that is determined to be unequivocally failing according to AYP, the article shows how the same data could be used to characterize this school in ways that are more complex and emphasize its possible accomplishments. In addition to disaggregating test scores according to AYP-prescribed student categories, the study accounts for length of time students have been enrolled in the school and considers those students who do not present characteristics that NCLB views as putting them at risk of school failure as a separate category of their own. The study shows that the portrait of the school that is drawn by including these additional categories is quite different from that presented by the existing AYP reports. It is suggested that, in addition to questions regarding the validity of high-stakes assessments for the evaluation of student learning, the very way in which the data is presented in AYP reporting makes tacit choices that are disturbing, need to be highlighted, and whose implications ought to be considered.

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Current Issues in Education

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