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Defining Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (NCLB, 2002) builds upon the accountability provisions in the Improving America's Schools Act (IASA) of 1994 (IASA, 1994), which required each state to establish challenging content and performance standards and to implement assessments that measure students' performance against those standards (Goertz, 2001). The IASA defined adequately yearly progress (AYP):

"In a manner that 1) results in continuous and substantial yearly improvement of each school and local education agency sufficient to achieve the goal of all children … meeting the state's proficient and advanced levels of achievement; [and] 2) is sufficiently rigorous to achieve the goal within an appropriate timeframe (as cited in Elmore & Rothman, 1999, p. 85)" (Goertz, 2001).

Goertz (2001) explains that the NCLB legislation makes several critical changes to the IASA definition for AYP and requires each state to create its own definition of AYP within the parameters set by Title I. NCLB states that each state is required to define AYP in a manner as follows:

"(i) Applies the same high standards of academic achievement to all public elementary school and secondary school students in the State; (ii) is statistically valid and reliable; (iii) results in continuous and substantial academic improvement for all students; (iv) measures the progress of public elementary schools, secondary schools and local educational agencies and the State based primarily on the academic assessments ... (v) includes separate measurable annual objectives for continuous and substantial improvement for each of the following: (I) The achievement of all public elementary school and secondary school students. (II) The achievement of—(aa) economically disadvantaged students; (bb) students from major racial and ethnic groups; (cc) students with disabilities; and (dd) students with limited English proficiency" (NCLB, 2002, Part A, Subpart 1, Sec. 1111, 2[c]).

As a result of NCLB, each state has developed a plan for the minimum levels of improvement in measurable terms of student performance that local educational agencies must achieve within the given time frames specified by the NCLB legislation.

Linn, Baker, and Betebenner (2002) explain experts' concerns about the NCLB definition and timelines for getting students and all subgroups of students to the "proficient" standard and for identifying and sanctioning low-performing schools under the federal definition of AYP. Of particular concern are the validity and reliability of the tests used for high-stakes decisions such as high school graduation, college entrance, or determining the consequences of NCLB's AYP requirement. Sample error and nonpersistent factors such as teacher turnover or strikes and disruptive student cohorts are large contributors to the variance in school-building scores from one year to the next (Cronbach, Linn, Brennan, & Haertel, 1997; Linn, Baker, & Betebenner, 2002). Hinging students' future opportunities on one standardized test score, when the test itself is unaligned to content standards, is a common example of inappropriate test use. High-stakes decisions need to be founded on a robust data set about students' achievements. Because the standards' movement, technology, and the NCLB legislation are spawning new tests at the state level, test precision is a vital concern.

The Education Commission of the States has created an interactive, online database that catalogs each state's status with regard to the NCLB requirements and allows for interactive searches and comparisons among states according to each of the accountability criteria including the definition of AYP.



Cronbach, L. J., Linn, R. L., Brennan, R. L., & Haertel, E. H. (1997). Generalizability analysis for performance assessments of student achievement or school effectiveness. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 57, 373–399.

Goertz , M.E. (2001, September). The federal role in defining "adequate yearly progress:" The flexibility/accountability trade-off. Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Retrieved September 6, 2020 , from

Improving America's Schools Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-382. (1994). Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

Linn, R. L., Baker, E. L., & Betebenner, D. W. (2002). Accountability systems: Implications of requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Educational Researcher, 31(6), 3–16. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425. (2002). Retrieved September 6, 2020, from
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