Feds overrule Pennsylvania’s lenient AYP grading standard for charter schools


by Edward Graham

The U.S. Department of Education has blocked an attempt by Pennsylvania’s Education Secretary to evaluate state charter schools using a more lenient method for calculating AYP, the “adequate yearly progress” measurement that determines whether schools have met the minimum academic standards under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Without seeking advice or approval from the U.S. Department of Education, Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis announced in early September that charter schools in the state would begin to be treated as school districts instead of individual schools when evaluating their AYP grades, starting with the 2011-2012 school year. While individual schools must hit specified targets of success in every grade level to qualify for AYP, a school district only needs to have one grade span—grades 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12—cross the threshold in order for the district to meet its academic threshold.

Under his plan, public schools would continue to be evaluated under both individual and district-wide criteria, while charter schools would only follow the more lenient “district method” of AYP evaluation—meaning that only one of the three grade spans at a charter school had to meet AYP standards for the entire school to qualify.

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