Despite receiving a waiver from the state standardized testing system, McPherson USD 418 has learned that it will still be required to meet the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) testing benchmarks put in place as part of the federal No Child Left Behind initiatve.
During Monday’s USD 418 board of education meeting, District Superintendent Dr. Randy Watson explained that a provision of the waiver received by the district from the United States Department of Education requires the district to continue meeting AYP benchmarks. The benchmarks provide standards for the percentage of students in each grade level tested that must be proficient on the yearly standardized tests in each subject. The benchmark figures, which are applied to schools across the country, increase annually, requiring more students each year to become proficient in each subject and at each grade level tested. By increasing the testing benchmarks, lawmakers force schools to have more students proficient in all subject matters. Districts that fall below the benchmarks are classified as not meeting AYP standards.
A letter from the U.S. Dept. of Education to the district, explains that the district must continue to meet AYP standards using achievement levels established by the company that produces the ACT tests.
According to figures presented by Watson Monday, when results from USD 418 students are compared to scores from other students both within state and nation-wide, McPherson students often rank at the top. But the figures are not enough to meet this year’s AYP benchmark of 85 percent efficient.
The fact that the district is now applying tougher testing standards but still not making AYP Watson said shows just how out of touch the federal No Child Left Behind program is with today’s classrooms.
“It’s just interesting that you have a law that is so out of touch with so many school districts in America,” Watson said. “We’re still doing the right thing for our students to prepare them for their careers, the law just needs to catch up.”
Watson explained that the district originally believed the district would not be required to meet AYP standards and would in fact be held to new testing benchmarks established by the state.
Knowing that its middle school and high school will likely not make AYP, Watson said the district is now focused on establishing a learning curve.
The ACT company can provide “normal growth” figures which the district said it wants to use to move to a growth model.
Assistant Superintendent Chris Ruder said the state of Kansas has applied to the U.S. Department of Education to use last year’s testing benchmark figures, which Ruder said are closer to 82 percent proficient. The state has not received word on it’s request but even if the testing standards were lowered, USD 418 would still not be proficient by AYP standards.