48% of U.S. Schools Failed Federal Benchmarks

Although Ed Secretary Arne Duncan previously said up to 80 percent of schools would be labeled failing in 2011, he says one thing is clear, "No Child Left Behind is broken."
by | December 15, 2011

Nearly 50 percent of U.S. schools missed Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks for the 2010-2011 school year, according to a report released Thursday by the Center on Education Policy (CEP).

AYP, established as part of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002, requires schools to meet consistently increasing achievement goals on state exams, set by the individual states, with the requirement that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Data for the report was drawn from state departments of education. The report noted that New York had not yet released its 2011 figures; the state's 2010 data was used as a placeholder.

In 2011, 48 percent of the nation's schools failed to meet their state's AYP standards, up from 39 percent in 2010, according to the CEP report. The percentage varied widely among the states: Florida had the highest percentage of schools miss AYP at 89 percent, while Wisconsin had the smallet share of failing schools at 11 percent. Calls to those states' education departments were not returned.

The vast majority of states (43 plus the District of Columbia), had at least 25 percent of their schools fail to make AYP. In 24 states, plus D.C., 50 percent or more of schools missed their AYP targets, according to CEP. In five states -- Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, Massachusetts and South Carolina -- and D.C., more than 75 percent of schools did not make AYP.

On the national level, the percentage of schools that missed AYP has increased from 29 percent in 2006 to 48 percent in 2011, the highest percentage yet, according to CEP. The report didn't attempt to explain the trend, but did note that states have different exams and various targets for schools to meet.

Its findings do present a small problem for an Obama administration talking point: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated up to 80 percent of schools would be labeled failing in 2011. The figure was frequently cited when the administration pushed Congress to reauthorize NCLB and again when the Education Department allowed states to apply for a waiver from the 2014 deadline. Several bills under consideration in Congress have proposed eliminating the AYP system entirely.

"Whether it’s 50 percent, 80 percent or 100 percent of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken," Duncan said in a statement in response to the CEP report. Justin Hamilton, the department's press secretary, stressed to Governing that the CEP numbers were "estimates" and the official AYP findings would be released in the spring.

Regardless of the specific percentage of failing schools, other education organizations have agreed with Duncan that NCLB is due for a significant overhaul. Reggie Felton, assistant executive director for Congressional relations at the National School Boards Association, told Governing that the AYP system is inherently flawed because the test scores of a small number of students in specific subgroups can lead to a whole school being labeled as "failing."

"The message is that America's schools are failing. That's the part that we're most upset with because we have many schools out there that are doing very well," Felton said. "We desperately need a new bill."

Select a state below to view AYP scores for 2010-2011:

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