The Tragedy of AYP

I have been observing the aberration of No Child Left Behind, and  its negative effects on our Virginia public school system since it began.  Like many such initiatives, it had the best of intentions, however was not  based on reality, but on impossible-to-achieve goals of 100% pass rates for  entire school populations, to be accomplished in an equally unrealistic time  frame.

Clarke Daily News - Opinion & Editorial

It comes as no surprise that as the years have progressed, more  and more schools and school divisions fail to achieve AYP. Additionally,  because of its convoluted calculations, the determination of which schools  make or do not make AYP is poorly understood by the public, who are simply  reading that their schools are “failing”. The true tragedy, however, does  not lie in the categorization of schools that “made AYP” or “did not make  AYP”.

The true tragedy – which should have been foreseeable – lies  elsewhere. It lies in the slow erosion of Virginia’s Standards of Learning  test structure, which, to the contrary, was originally much more  “reality-based” and well thought out.  When established, the SOLs, which encompass the basic core  curriculum needed for a solid education, required testing in the 3d, 5th,  8th and End of Course grades, to be used as a measurement of a school’s  ability to properly educate its students, and was to be used as a  measurement of the quality of those schools instructional ability, allowing  them to correct their programs where necessary in view of results. The  “pass rates” for the subjects were established at 70% – i.e., the student  had to get 70% of the answers right to pass. Fewer, and you did not pass.

Testing was done 4 years out of 12, leaving the schools a great deal of  latitude in establishing their educational programs.  Alas, when NCLB reared its ugly head, with its unachievable  demands, this structure was fatally compromised. Not only were two more  testing years – 4th and 6th grades for English/Math – added to the mix, but  the time frame to reach perfection (100% pass rate in 2014) precipitated the
only response the VDOE knew how to make. Drop the SOL pass-rate standards.

No longer is it necessary to have 70% of correct answers to the  test questions. Depending on the subject matter, it can be as low as 50%.  How would any of you like to operated on by a surgeon who only got 50% of  his/her answers right during their medical exams? (to see exact percentages,  go to

The true tragedy is that we are all being lulled into a false  sense of security. Oh yes, test scores are rising – but only because our SOL  pass rate requirements have been steadily dropping. We applaud students who  pass – but are they truly learning what they need to know in today’s ever  more competitive society? Or are they being short-changed? Are we chasing  after ersatz pass-rates at the expense of true knowledge?

We know that the world is becoming more competitive, and our  nation – once a world leader – is falling behind in education. We cannot  continue on this path. Not only should we dump NCLB as soon as possible, we  desperately need to restore our SOLs to their former levels of true quality.

There is no substitute for true excellence. Not now, not ever.

Robina Rich Bouffault

Ms. Bouffault represents the White Post election district on the Clarke County School Board


  1. Bill Lukens says:

    I agree that the Bush era “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) should be rescinded. The entire Department of Education is also a cabinet department that could be eliminated and the money spent on the NCLB and the other programs of the department returned to the states.
    The education of our children is critical and the test scores should reflect the actual accomplishments and skill levels of the students. When you grade “on the curve” you diminish the work of the better students and reduce the motivation of the weaker students to improve.
    The school systems should prepare students for the real world and jobs. A system that ignores student’s real potential and assumes everyone is capable of a college degree does a disservice to a large number of students. Those who would be excellent in mechanical or technical fields are encouraged to take, then struggle in AP or IB courses that will not give them the skills they need to be employed.
    In talking to a few contractors and builders, they have said that immigrants from countries that provide apprenticeships or education in the construction or associated trades are the only young people they can hire with the needed skills.
    So I would recommend that the Federal government cease spending our money on what they ‘believe’ we need and let the local educators provide the students educations that provide them with a career opportunities and accomplishments at their individual level.
    I respect and appreciate all who have volunteered their time and energy to the school board and other groups that support our educational systems. Thank you.

    • Bill Lukens says:

      And I see that I did not correct a few typos or spelling mistakes. That is one of the problems with having a ‘quick draw’ on the ‘Post Comment’ button. Either correct or ignore them, thanks…

  2. clarke parent says:

    Robina is correct. NCLB is a farce wrapped in a tragedy. Nowhere in the history of mankind has any segment reached 100%, whether it be education, employment or personal hygiene. NCLB has its foundations in the fumes of George Bush’s term as Governor of Texas. It did not work there and it certainly does not work scaled up to a national level.

    • If you look closely, you’ll notice the bill was written mainly by Ted Kennedy

      • Mr Mister says:

        Again, thanks to Sarge for reassuring us that the democrats are bad.

      • CLARKE EAGLE says:

        Sarge the folks here do not want to here the truth. From their own fringe left rag the Huffington Post. “Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy co-sponsored the No Child Left Behind legislation, which passed in January 2002 with overwhelming bipartisan support. ”

        Don’t let the facts get in the way of your Bush bashing folks. This is the problem with liberals. They cannot distinguish between the real world from the delusional world that they live in.

        • Mr Mister says:

          The legislation was proposed by President George W. Bush on January 23, 2001. It was coauthored by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), George Miller (D-CA), and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). The United States House of Representatives passed the bill on May 23, 2001 (voting 384–45),[6] and the United States Senate passed it on June 14, 2001 (voting 91–8).[7] President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002.

          The important word is “coauthored”. I don’t think anyone was Bush bashing. But someone was Democrat bashing. All I am saying is that it is funny how some people overlook the “co-sponsored” and go right for the democrat jugular. Talk about letting the facts get in the way of a good story!

          • CLARKE EAGLE says:

            You can spin it any way you wish. Kennedy was a cosponsor and it was one of his “pet projects”. Do you think just because he was not listed as a co-author he had zero input or control? Much of what he wanted in the bill made its way into the bill. Liberals choose to forget this part of history.

            It was one of those bipartisan deals that the media and presidents claim the American people want.

            Nice cut and paste from Wikipedia. If Wikipedia says so it must be true.

          • Naked Truth says:

            Why do people like you and Sarge only focus on the deomcrat half of the co-authorship? What about the other half? That’s my point, no spin.

          • Oh i fully realize that Bush was all hip to sign it as well. Like I said, good intentions, but ultimately yet another example of a government program gone awry

  3. Thank you for a thought reflecting article. Thank you Robina for serving on the School Board. You will be missed and our school system was most fortunate to have your attention to detail. Barbara Lee says you are brilliant. I appreciate all the School Board and administration.

  4. Thank you, Pioneer, for the kind words.
    I was however, much saddened by some of the comments above, that veered – once again – to party-politics bickering, while ignoring the subject of the article.
    The quality of the education provided to this nation’s children will be the measure by which our nation’s future is decided. And that encompasses Democrats, Republicans and just about any other party out there. It’s time to stop bickering and the blame game, and start working TOGETHER to make things better.

  5. Randy Sprouse says:

    WOW! First, thank you Robina for your tireless efforts on the S.B. for our children and our community. I agree with the comment attributed to Barbara Lee. Your letter was spot on. Of the 12 comments that appeared before mine, 9 (75%) were negative and wanted to focus on blame or the absence of, while only 3 (25%) were positive and perhaps more open to discuss solutions. I’d like to see these numbers reversed. I believe that we would a better community and, perhaps, nation for it.

  6. What does AYP stand for? One would think that would be in the first paragraph.

    CDN Editor – Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is the term used to indicate that a school or school district has met federal accountability requirements. Three components determine whether a school or school district achieves AYP. (1) Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) in reading and mathematics (2) Participation rate (3) Other academic indicators.

  7. Delphi janitor says:

    “here the truth”? Read my lips, No gnu taxes.

  8. Clarke Parent 2 says:

    I’m not concerned with what party did what! I want what is best for my student and the other students here in Clarke County.
    1) NCLB needs to go!
    2) I grew up where we had a vocational school devoted to students who wanted to learn career jobs. Maybe we could start a program for that instead of the IB and AP which do nothing for our students anyway.
    3) Maybe the school board could take a pay cut and pay our teachers more so we won’t keep loosing good and even great teachers to other districts!
    4) Get back to the real world and stop this 1 hour and 35 minutes of reading class and 1 hour and 10 minutes of math class. Besides the way the schools do this the children don’t even know what grade level they are working on. So at the start of each school year my child says why am I doing adding again? Wasn’t I doing multiplication, geometry and pre-algebra at the end of last year? Or what grade level books should I buy my child because when I ask I am told I don’t know what grade reading I’m in because the teachers won’t tell us which class is the highest reading class. Don’t get me wrong I too believe that reading and math are important but social studies and science are just as important!
    5.1) I have to say my child scored 600 on the SOL’s (Reading and Math) So why is she doing adding again she needs to be ready for middle school math TRUST ME SHE CAN ADD! She has proven that now teach her something she doesn’t know!
    6) Change the structured recess back to recess the kids need time to PLAY! It helps alleviate the stress that these dumb classes cause!