Friday, March 20, 2009

Alphabet Soup Accountability -- NYSED NCLB Tutorial Coming at You

How many acronyms can dance in the head of an Education Bureaucrat?

AYP, NCLB, SES, LEA, SINI (rhymes with) DINI, and SRAP & DRAP. All eight of these appeared in one -- just one -- press release from the State Education Department on March 17. I did not include NYSED since some agency had to tell us all of this.

This acronym overdrive was included in the listing of the number of failing public schools in the state, which I will attempt to explain.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandates that schools make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Schools that fail to do so get labeled Schools In Need of Improvement (SINI) and districts that fail this yardstick get labeled Districts In Need of Improvement (DINI).

Presumably, a DINI would have more than a few SINIs; and small districts with only one or two schools that were SINIs would make a district a DINI? Get it?

Then there are Schools Requiring Academic Progress (SRAP) and Districts Requiring Academic Progress (DRAP), which aren't as bad as SINI and DINI, but have an analgous connection, that is, too many SRAPs make a DRAP and just one or two SRAPs could mean a DRAP in a small district. You get the picture.

You probably figured by now that a SINI can become a SRAP (that's good!), but, then again, a SRAP could become a SINI (that's bad).

If you don't believe me, the NYSED said so: "Of the 122 schools identified as SRAP, 12 schools that had been SINIs were moved to the SRAP list ... Conversely, four schools that now receive Title I funds moved from SRAP to SINI status." You can take that to the bank.

Wait. I almost forgot that Local Educational Agencies (LEA) are generally school districts, and problem ones that don't make AYP (see above) have to provide Supplemental Education Services (SES) to students.

That means DINIs and DRAPs are LEAs, and SINIs and SRAPs (along with DINIs and DRAPs) have SES requirements.

A charter school can be a SINI or SRAP (thankfully, only two currently are) and also are an LEA even though they can neither be a DINI or DRAP. (A little Theodore Geisel lingo!)

In case we missed something, the Department's release can be found on its website:

The failing schools list, released annually by the State Education Department, came out earlier this week and had fewer schools listed. That's the good news, I guess.

The Department stated: "The number of schools identified as either SINI or SRAP declined statewide from 719 in 2007-08 to 665 in 2008-09. The number of districts identified as DINI or DRAP declined from 68 to 61 during that period."

Wonderful. And just in time for Education Commissioner Richard Mills to make his exit after 14 years. As for any multi-year trend data? There was none handy in the release, so it's not readily known without digging if the current year drop from last year was still higher than, say, two or four years ago. That didn't make the release.

Anyway, let's not deny the Commissioner the chance to leave on a high-note. Lucky for him, he can free himself of the acronyms, PDQ (LOL).

Peter Murphy (PM)
for The Chalkboard

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