What they mean by left behind

In August, Minnesotans learned that about half of the state’s schools are not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. But what does that actually mean?

The No Child Left Behind Act sets a goal of 100 percent student proficiency in English and math by the 2013–2014 school year. In order to make AYP, schools must meet ever-rising benchmarks for all subgroups of students. The subgroups are divided by income and race, as well as special education and English-as-a-second-language needs. In each subgroup, 95 percent of all students must be tested, and all subgroups must meet targets for the entire school to be considered to be making AYP. Therefore, the more subgroups a school has, the harder it might be to make AYP. High school graduation rate and elementary and middle school attendance records also factor in but are not weighted heavily.

Room for improvement in science

When Minnesota students took a new standardized science test this spring, the results were less than desirable: Only 40 percent passed.

While educators are disappointed with the low marks, because this was Minnesota’s first standardized science test, they don’t have a standard against which the results can be measured, other than their predictions. The test, which was given to 5th-  and 8th-graders and one year of high school (varying by district), was also the first computer-administered standardized test in the nation.

Tops in ACTs

Minnesota led the nation in ACT scores this year for the fourth year in a row. Statewide, where 69 percent of high school graduates take the test, the class of 2008 averaged 22.6 out of a possible 36, just ahead of Iowa (22.4) and Wisconsin (22.3). In the 26 states where the majority of students take the ACT, the average was 21.1.

While this is great news, comparing Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin to states like Colorado and Michigan is not exactly apples to apples: While about two-thirds of graduates here take the test — the ones most likely headed to college — in those states, 100 percent of grads do, significantly lowering their averages.

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