Description of Adequate Yearly Progress

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Sec. 1111 (b)(F), requires that "each state shall establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress. The timeline shall ensure that not later than 12 years after the 2001-2002 school year, all students in each group described in subparagraph (C)(v) will meet or exceed the State's standards." These timelines are developed by state education agencies working under guidance from the federal government. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is the law used as the primary statute governing the federal government's role in education.

The federal government's role in this area was earlier defined under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The ESEA stated that its purpose was to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the nation's elementary and secondary schools. These goals were to be achieved through financial assistance to local educational agencies for the education of children of low-income families or with disabilities. In 2001, ESEA was modified and renamed the No Child Left Behind Act. Strengthening and improving the education of elementary and secondary school students remains the goal of NCLB and the AYP measurement.

According to the Department of Education, AYP is a diagnostic tool that determines how schools need to improve and where financial resources should be allocated. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige wrote, "The statute gives States and local educational agencies significant flexibility in how they direct resources and tailor interventions to the needs of individual schools identified for improvement... schools are held accountable for the achievement of all students, not just average student performance."

The NCLB makes provisions for schools that do not demonstrate adequate yearly progress. Those that do not meet AYP for two years in a row are identified as "schools in need of improvement" and are subject to immediate interventions by the State Education Agency in their state. First steps include technical assistance and then, according to the Department of Education, "more serious corrective actions" occur if the school fails to make AYP.