AYP in NCLB: A Comprehensive Overview
Revised July 2009
Available on the Web at www.ncpublicschools.org/nclb/abcayp/overview/ayp
The major goal of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 is for all public
school children to perform at grade level in reading and mathematics by the end of the
2013-14 school year. NCLB's accountability requirements are designed to tell whether
schools, districts, and states are on track to meet that goal.
All public schools, in North Carolina and throughout the country, must measure and
report Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as outlined in NCLB. AYP measures the yearly
progress of different groups of students at the school, district, and state levels against a
yearly target in reading and mathematics. There are both proficiency and participation
targets. Proficiency target goals are set increasingly higher in three-year increments until
2013-14. Participation and proficiency in reading and mathematics end-of-grade
assessments for grades 3-8 determine if elementary and middle schools make AYP.
Proficiency and participation in Algebra I and a combination of the English I end-of-
course assessments and the Grade 10 Writing Assessments determine AYP in
mathematics and reading/language arts at the high school level. Alternate assessments are
used for a small percentage of students.
AYP reporting involves many technical terms with very specific meanings as North
Carolina implements NCLB federal law. These terms are defined in a glossary on the
Web at www.ncpublicschools.org/nclb/glossary.
All Student Groups
Adequate Yearly Progress measures the yearly progress toward achieving grade level
performance for each student group in reading and mathematics. Student groups are: 1)
the School as a Whole; 2) White; 3) Black; 4) Hispanic; 5) Native American; 6) Asian; 7)
Multiracial; 8) Economically Disadvantaged Students; 9) Limited English Proficient
Students; and 10) Students With Disabilities.
Each student group must have at least 40 students across the tested grades to be included
in AYP calculations at the school level. Most schools have several of the groups, but not
all10. A student must attend a school 140 days by the first day of spring testing to be
included in AYP calculations at the school level. However, students who are part of
groups smaller than 40 or who attend a school fewer than 140 days contribute to AYP
calculations at the district level. Each student is represented in at least two groups – the
School as a Whole and her/his racial group.
If just one student group in one subject (mathematics or reading/language arts) at a school
does not meet the targeted proficiency goal, then the school does not make AYP for that
year, with some exceptions.
For elementary and middle schools (grades 3-8) to make AYP, each student group in the
tested grades must meet the following target goals:
• 95 percent participation rate in end-of-grade reading or alternate assessments;
• 95 percent participation rate in end-of-grade mathematics or alternate
• proficiency or above in end-of-grade reading or alternate assessments; and
• proficiency or above in end-of-grade mathematics or alternate assessments
• In addition, the School as a Whole must show progress on the Other
Academic Indicator, which is attendance for schools in grades 3 to 8.
For high schools (grades 9-12) to make AYP, each student group must meet the
following target goals:
• 95 percent participation rate on the English I and Grade 10 writing or alternate
• 95 percent participation rate on the Algebra I or alternate assessments;
• proficiency or above on the English I and Grade 10 writing or alternate
• proficiency or above on the Algebra I or alternate assessments.
• In addition, the School as a Whole must show progress on the Other
Academic Indicator, which is the four-year cohort graduation rate if the school
graduates seniors and the attendance rate if it doesn’t.
Schools must test at least 95 percent of students in each group. Participation rates for the
past two or three years are averaged, depending upon how many years of data are
available, whenever a school or group does not meet the 95 percent tested standard. If the
school or any of the groups has less than an average of 95 percent participation, then the
school doesn't make AYP.
Other Academic Indicator
Schools must show progress on the Other Academic Indicator in order to make AYP.
Attendance in elementary and middle schools, and the four-year cohort graduation rate in
high schools, are Other Academic Indicators in North Carolina. The cohort graduation
rate, reported on the NC School Report Cards for the first time in 2006 as required by
NCLB, reflects the percentage of ninth graders who graduated from high school four
Progress is considered to be at least a .1 percentage point increase up to the 80 percent
threshold for the cohort graduation rate and 90 percent for the attendance rate. Any
fluctuations above the thresholds meet the requirement for progress.
For schools that have both elementary/middle grades and high school grades, the Other
Academic Indicator is the graduation rate if the school graduates seniors and attendance
rate if the school does not. (There are special conditions that may apply when either of
the grade spans has fewer than 40 students.) For school districts, both of the Other
Academic Indicators are used.
Safe harbor is the first provisional status calculation applied if a student group meets the
95 percent participation rate but does not meet the proficiency target. That student group
can meet its proficiency target with a safe harbor provision if:
• the student group has reduced the percent of students not proficient by at least
10 percent from the previous year for that subject area; and
• the group shows progress on the Other Academic Indicator.
Schools can apply this safe harbor analysis to any and all group(s) of students that do not
meet the proficiency target goal. If a student group does not have the minimum number
of students required in the previous year to be calculated as a separate group, then the
safe harbor provision cannot be utilized.
For each student group, a 95 percent confidence interval, similar to a margin of error
applied to polling data, is used around the percentages of students scoring proficient in
reading and/or mathematics to determine whether target goals for AYP are met. This
analysis is independent of the safe harbor calculations and cannot be combined with safe
harbor for any one student group.
AYP Growth Standard
Beginning in 2005-06, AYP calculations include a way that schools and districts can be
credited for academic growth shown by a student group not initially meeting its
proficiency target goal. An AYP growth standard is applied to student groups that don’t
initially meet target goals. Nonproficient students who are on track toward meeting the
proficiency standards within four years of entering a tested grade in North Carolina, or by
the end of 10th grade, can be counted as proficient. The AYP growth standard outlines
predetermined incremental progress that students must demonstrate in order to be
counted as “on track” and, therefore, proficient. If the percentage of nonproficient
students on the set proficiency growth pathway and percentage of proficient students
combine to meet the proficiency target goal, the group is considered to have met its target
goal. This is analyzed after attempting to use safe harbor and the confidence interval.
Title I Sanctions
NCLB defines sanctions for all public schools with an emphasis on those schools
receiving Title I funds that do not make AYP in the same subject for consecutive years. A
Title I school that does not make AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years is
designated as a Title I School Improvement school.
The more years a school does not meet its AYP targets in the same subject, the more
severe sanctions become. See the chart below.
Title I School Improvement schools offering public school choice must offer that choice
to all students enrolled in the school. Choice options are schools designated by the district
that are not in Title I School Improvement and are not considered “Persistently
Dangerous.” Although all students from the Title I School Improvement school are
eligible, students who are the lowest performing and in the highest poverty have first
priority when considering: 1) their first choice of school transfer options; and 2) who
receives free transportation first, if such funds are limited. Some federal dollars to Title I
schools are designated to pay for public school choice transportation.
Title I School Improvement schools offering supplemental educations services (SES), or
free tutoring, must offer that free tutoring only to economically disadvantaged students
(those eligible for free or reduced-cost school lunch). However, other tutoring can be
offered to non-economically disadvantaged students. For students offered both choice
and SES, only one option may be chosen.
Below is a sequential description of what happens each year for Title I schools not
If a Title I school does not make AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years, the
school enters Title I School Improvement and must offer transfer options or, if the school
is in an SES pilot district, free tutoring. The SES Pilot Program allows participating
North Carolina districts to offer supplemental educational services, or free tutoring, to
economically disadvantaged students in the first year a school is in Title I School
Improvement instead of public school choice options.. A list of SES Pilot Districts is
available on the Web at www.ncpublicschools.org/nclb/ses/pilot.
If a Title I school does not make AYP in the same subject for three years, supplemental
educational services must be offered to low-income students and public school choice
must be offered to all students. These two options must be offered regardless of whether
the school is in an SES pilot district as participation in the pilot affects only the year a
Title I School enters Title I School Improvement. Title I schools must continue to offer
these two options for the entire time that they remain in Title I School Improvement. If a
Title I school does not make AYP in the same subject for four years, it is identified for
corrective action. The school must continue to offer public school choice and
supplemental educational services and begin implementing at least one, but not
necessarily all, of the following corrective actions:
• Replace the school staff responsible for the lack of progress
• Institute a new curriculum, including appropriate professional development
• "Significantly decrease management authority" at the school level
• Appoint an outside expert to advise the school
• Extend the school year or the school day for the school
• Restructure the school's internal organizational structure
If a Title I school does not make AYP in the same subject for five years, the school must
continue taking corrective action measures, offering public school choice and
supplemental educational services.
With parent and school input, the district develops a plan for a school's restructuring. The
restructuring plan must include one of the following alternative governance
• Reopening as a charter
• Replacing all or most of the school staff, which may include the principal
• Entering into a contract with a private management company
• Turning the operation of the school over to the state
• Implementing any other major restructuring of the school’s governance
arrangement that is consistent with the NCLB principles of restructuring
Examples of other major restructuring efforts are:
• Changing the governance structure so that school-based management and
decision making is diminished and district control, monitoring, and oversight
• Closing the school and reopening it as a focus or theme school with new staff
or staff skilled in the focus area
• Reconstituting the school into smaller learning communities
• Dissolving the school and assigning students to other schools
• Pairing the school with a higher performing school so that K-3 grades are
together and 4-5 grades are together
• Expanding or narrowing grades served
If a Title I school does not make AYP in the same subject for six years, the alternate
governance (restructuring) plan that was developed the previous year must be
While the parental notification requirement is the same for charter schools as it is for
other public schools, the "transfer" provision is different for a charter school. A Title I
school that has not made AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years must notify
parents of the school's Title I School Improvement status, but does not need to provide
parents with other school options beyond the choice to return to their local district
school(s). North Carolina charter schools are, by definition, schools of choice as students
are not "assigned" to attend a charter school. Rather, parents and/or students choose to
attend a charter school instead of their district offering(s). At any time, regardless of
whether a charter school has made AYP or not, parents and/or students can choose to
return to their district school.
Non-Title I schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years due to missing one
or more targets in the same subject area, (e.g., reading) are required to amend their
School Improvement Plan to address the situation. The purpose of the School
Improvement Plan is to establish annual, measurable goals and overall improvement
objectives (related especially to achievement of AYP), analyze why the school has not
yet achieved its goals, and describe what strategies the school will use to improve
Schools with 90 percent or more of their students performing at Achievement Level III
and above and making AYP are designated as Honor Schools of Excellence.
The NC Standard Course of Study, the state-adopted curriculum, defines what students
should know and be able to do at each grade level. Assessments are aligned to the
curriculum and measure student achievement toward the defined standards.
Participation and proficiency in reading and mathematics end-of-grade assessments for
grades 3-8 determine if elementary and middle schools make AYP. Proficiency and
participation in Algebra I and a combination of the English I end-of- course assessments
and the Grade 10 Writing Assessments determine AYP in mathematics and
reading/language arts at the high school level. Alternate assessments are available for a
small percentage of students for all of these assessments.
Science Assessments for Grades 5 and 8
Science assessments must be conducted at least once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12, to
meet NCLB requirements. In North Carolina, students in grades 5 and 8 are assessed in
science. The NC end-of-course biology test meets NCLB science testing requirements at
the high school level. Currently, the science tests at grades 5 and 8 are not required to be
included in AYP or ABCs calculations. Biology is included in ABCs calculations.
Assessments for Limited English Proficient Students
The state-identified language proficiency tests are administered to all language minority
students (Grades K-12) at initial enrollment and annually to all students identified as
limited English proficient. In 2005-06, the state began using a new proficiency test,
which consists of four sections that assess the student’s reading, writing, listening and
speaking skills. Previously, the state-identified language proficiency test consisted of
three sections that assess the student’s oral, reading and writing skills. The state-
identified language proficiency tests are administered to all language minority students
(Grades K-12) at initial enrollment and annually to all students identified as limited
Assessments and Students With Disabilities
Students, including students with disabilities, are assessed either through standard test
administration, standard test administration with accommodations/modifications, or state-
designed alternate assessments.
According to federal regulations, 2 percent of the students at the district level can use
modified grade level academic achievement standards and take assessments based on
modified achievement standards and be considered proficient if they score Level III or IV
on these assessments. These students are served under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA), but are not students with the most significant cognitive
According to federal regulations, 1 percent of the students at the district level, those
students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, can be held to alternate
achievement standards and deemed proficient through alternate assessments.
Scores measured against alternative standards that exceed set percentages are considered
as nonproficient, unless an exception has been approved. The 1 and 2 percent cap rules
interact in such a way that, in some districts, slightly more than 3 percent of students’
scores may be counted as proficient.
North Carolina has developed alternate assessments to meet the requirements of the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and NCLB. Parents of students who
are administered these alternate assessments must be informed that their child’s
achievement will be measured using the indicated assessment.
The North Carolina Checklist of Academic Standards (NCCLAS) is an alternate
assessment based on grade-level achievement standards. The NCCLAS is an alternate
assessment provided to some students with disabilities who are not able to access the
standard end-of-grade or end-of-course assessments even with approved accommodations
and to some students with limited English proficiency within their first two years in
United States' schools.
The North Carolina EXTEND2 (NCEXTEND2) is an alternate assessment based on
modified achievement standards. Modified academic achievement standards are
standards that are aligned with grade-level content and are expectations of student
performance that have been adjusted to reflect reduced breadth or depth of grade level
NCEXTEND2 EOG is an on grade level assessment that serves as an alternate for end-of-
grade reading and mathematics tests for grades 3-8, writing tests for grades 4 and 7, and
science tests for grades 5 and 8.
As an alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards, NCEXTEND2
EOG is aligned to the NC Standard Course of Study grade-level academic content
standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled.
The North Carolina EXTEND1 (NCEXTEND1) is an alternate assessment based on
alternate achievement standards for students with significant cognitive disabilities
accessing the NC Standard Course of Study through extended content standards or
AYP for School Districts
School districts are held to the same proficiency target goals for students in reading and
mathematics that are established for schools. AYP is determined for a school district by
compiling the data for each student group and for the students as a whole in the district.
A school district enters Title I LEA Improvement by not meeting target goals in the same
subject (reading or mathematics) in each of three grade spans (3-5, 6-8, and high school)
for two years in a row. The minimum N count used in determining the AYP status of
school districts is 40, or 1 percent of the tested students, whichever is greater. This
minimum N is applied in each district to grades 3-5, 6-8, and high school. The 1 percent
is based on students meeting the full academic year (140 day) requirement in each grade
All 115 districts in the state are Title I districts and, therefore, are eligible for sanctions if
they do not meet AYP requirements. (Only about half of the schools in the state are Title
I schools and, therefore, susceptible for sanctioning.)
School-based AYP proficiency statistics cannot be combined in order to compute the
AYP proficiency statistics for the district. It is possible for a district to not make AYP
even though its individual schools do. In some cases, a student group will be under 40 at
the school level and so will not count as a separate group until compiled at the district
level. Another example of how calculations differ at the district level is a federal
requirement to count students who have been in the district for at least 140 days (full
academic year), even though they may not have been in a single school within that
district for 140 days. This means some students will be counted at the district level, but
not at the school level. Another difference in district-level AYP calculations is that the
cohort graduation rate and the attendance rate are calculated for the Other Academic
In the first two years of Title I District Improvement, the district must receive Technical
Assistance from the state and must design and implement a plan that:
• incorporates scientifically-based strategies;
• identifies actions that have the greatest likelihood of improving achievement;
• addresses the professional needs of instructional staff, including spending a
minimum of 10 percent for professional development annually;
• includes measurable objectives consistent with AYP;
• addresses fundamental teaching and learning needs in the district's schools,
specifically the needs of low-achieving students;
• determines why prior plans failed to improve achievement;
• incorporates extended-time learning activities;
• specifies State Educational Agency and district responsibilities, including
technical assistance; and
• informs parents of the district's status and identifies strategies for effective
In the third year of Title I District Improvement, the state must take corrective action.
(The State Board of Education may delay corrective action if the district makes AYP for
one year during the time the district is in Title I District Improvement.) The state assigns
a sanction to school districts in corrective action.
A National Perspective
When considering information regarding AYP across our nation, it's important to keep in
mind that each state has its own tests used to determine student achievement. There is no
national test. The rigor of state tests varies widely. Some states did not have a statewide
curriculum, statewide testing programs or public reporting until responding to NCLB.
North Carolina has had a strong school accountability system, the ABCs of Public
Education, since 1996. Our state has had statewide curriculum standards and statewide
testing programs and reporting on those results since 1989. Each state also has its own
starting points and target goals used to measure what percentage of its students are and
should be proficient.
AYP calculations, reporting and ramifications for schools and districts not making AYP
are central in the debate about what a reauthorized version of the federal law might look
like. More information on the reauthorization process, North Carolina's platform for
changes to NCLB as proposed by the State Board of Education, answers to questions
asked about the reauthorization process, and links to what's happening politically across
the nation as the process moves forward can be accessed on the Web at