The Impact of the Pressures to Make Adequate Yearly Progress on Teachers in a Midwest Urban School District: A Qualitative Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Urban Education Research Team at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has been studying the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) since early 2006. This research has been largely supported by a grant from the Institute for Urban Research at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. The general research agenda of this team has been to focus specifically upon the academic and the job satisfaction implications of the failure of identified schools to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on both the teachers and administrators in those schools. The preliminary qualitative survey responses of teachers in four pilot schools are analyzed in this study with an eye toward addressing the issues of student academic achievement and educator job satisfaction. These four schools: two elementary schools; a middle school; and a high school, are located in the metro-East area of Illinois, near St Louis, Missouri. The middle school and senior high school included in the current study have not made AYP for four consecutive years. The four schools are located in the same school district, which educates nearly 4,400 students. The district has a large minority population and a very significant low-income count. For example, the percentage of African-American students in the pilot district is 87.9%, compared with a statewide average of 19.9%. Conversely, the percentage of White students is 11%, as opposed to an Illinois average of 55.7%. The percentage of low-income students is 83.1%, compared with a statewide average of 40%. These figures are taken from the 2006 Illinois School Report Card.

Background

The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. While this legislation contains many provisions with serious implications for the nation's public schools, one of the best known requirements of the law is that 100 % of all public school students must make AYP in their academic studies by the year 2014. Student performance is measured on a school-by-school basis, and if an insufficient percentage of students fail to make adequate progress, then the school fails to make AYP. It is also possible for entire school districts to fail to make AYP.

One of the unusual aspects of this federal act is that each state has been given the authority to develop its own assessment standards and instruments to determine whether students are making AYP. Thus, it is possible, and quite likely, that the hurdles that students must clear in order to make AYP will vary from state-to-state. The actual instruments used to test students also differ among the states. The current subgroups under NCLB are students from racial/ethnic groups (White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-Pacific Islander, and multiethnic), economically disadvantaged students (free and reduced lunch), students with disabilities, limited English proficient (L.E.P.) students, and male and female.

While failure to make AYP under NCLB has already become an issue in all types of school districts throughout the nation, this effect has been felt the earliest and perhaps the most strongly in many of the nation's urban schools. Urban schools tend to educate a disparate number of the nation's ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities. At the same time, these same schools are often those without the level of resources needed in order to address the academic issues brought to light under NCLB. Students, teachers, and administrators alike suffer morale problems in lower-performing schools. One failure leads to another, and soon, those in the school are caught in a downward spiral of emotions. Nichols (2005) addresses this phenomenon by stating:

   So, once a school has been labeled failing, the children of that
   school belong to a failure. Leaving that school may not be a real
   option for many of the children, so they are stuck in an inferior
   school. … 

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