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National Data

According to the U.S. Department of Education Web site Ed Data Express, 52 percent of public schools made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2010-2011.

Data Source

The U.S. Department of Education Web site EdFacts publishes AYP data at the state level for all fifty states.


Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), all states must identify whether or not their public schools and districts are making AYP. While states have some flexibility under the law, NCLB requires that all schools and districts be measured on their year-to-year progress on student achievement goals, with the ultimate target of bringing all students to proficiency by 2014.

How to Use the Data

AYP data can be used to determine whether or not schools are successfully educating all of their students. Under the law, schools and districts are identified as “in need of improvement” if they do not reach minimum standards or show improvement over time with all students and all student subgroups.

How the details were measured

Schools and districts are identified as “in need of improvement” if they do not make AYP. Under the law, AYP must be shown for all students and all major student subgroups, including racial minority, economic level, English fluency, and special education. For high schools, the graduation rate is also part of the AYP designation.

Limitations of the data

AYP does not measure all aspects of school achievement. Also, some schools that have been identified as needing improvement under the law are considered high performing using other measures. Another limitation of the AYP data is that it can only be used to compare schools within a state. Because of the variation in testing and accountability systems, each state has developed its own process by which schools and districts are identified under the law, so there is no way to compare schools or districts across states.

Key Questions to Ask

Are my school’s AYP ratings similar to state accountability ratings?

The criteria used to determine AYP can differ from those established by state accountability systems. In some cases, schools have been rated as high-performing by their state but did not make AYP. There are several possible explanations. For example:

  • The state evaluates schools on growth. A school could make large gains and still fall below the AYP performance target.
  • The state system evaluates schools based on average scores for all students. A school with a diverse student population could have a high overall average score, but one group of students could be low-performing and therefore keep your school from making AYP.

You can find information about your state’s accountability system on your state department of education’s Web site.

When was my state AYP data last updated?

When possible you should check the AYP data with local sources. While EdFacts makes significant efforts to keep the site up-to-date, the data can quickly become stale. Because of the AYP appeals processes and other fine-tuning of the accountability system, the list of schools and districts listed as “in need of improvement” can change frequently.

Learn More

Under NCLB, states must hold schools and districts accountable for making AYP. If a school or district fails to make AYP in math or reading for two consecutive years, the state must identify it for improvement. Although states have some flexibility in sanctioning schools, NCLB requires that the state:

  • Notify parents that the school is in need of improvement.
  • Provide all students with the option to transfer.
  • Make supplemental services available.
  • Assist the school or district.

If a school or district continues to miss AYP, the state must restructure the school. This may include reopening the school as a charter school or replacing all of the school staff.

Even after accounting for differences in population, states have different proportions of schools and districts making AYP. There are two reasons for this:

  • NCLB gives states some leeway in the way that they identify schools and districts. (To read a description of your state’s AYP methodology, take a look at your state’s NCLB accountability plan.)
  • Local context affects the number of schools and districts identified under the law. If a state has its low-achieving students concentrated in a few larger districts, then it will likely have fewer schools on its “needs improvement” list than a state where low-achieving students are more evenly distributed throughout the state.

Since NCLB became law in 2002, there has been a great deal of debate over the way that AYP is calculated. The law has been up for reauthorization since 2007 while lawmakers have been looking at ways of altering the formula. A number of proposals have been put on the table—from different labels for schools that miss AYP to adjusting how AYP for special education will be determined. You should return often to the Center for Public Education Web site for news regarding this issue.

Additional Resources

Demonstrating success: A no-excuses approach to school improvement in Bisbee, Arizona—Although many educators have concerns about placing too much emphasis on standardized test results, this district uses them to make decisions about curriculum and instruction that is based on solid data and provides teachers with a basis for focused interventions.