This question is one that I was faced with about two weeks ago. I looked it up and eventually found enough information to satisfy my curiosity as well as help me tremendously with the difficulty I was having with school placement for my children.
The hard part is that I wasn't offered any information on this subject and found out about AYP through a 'random' encounter with someone. Our school staffing specialists didn't offer the information to us, and once we had researched it and brought it up to them, they denied knowledge of it and even began to say that it didn't affect us. Once we shared that we were educated about AYP, they finished the conversation with "You'll have to ask someone else about that, we have no idea." I then had to call someone else, who called someone else.. and it took 2 weeks to find out real answers. I explained more about our personal situation at the end of this post.
Now that I have the answers I was looking for, I want to share them. Because the second part of this difficulty is that if I didn't know where to start looking or WHAT to look for, I wouldn't have found it. There didn't appear to be anywhere that had all the information in one place.
That's what I'm attempting to do now.
Here is my "unofficial" post with my understanding about AYP, why it matters, and what it really means. If I've got something wrong, please, please correct me! Also, I have focused only on the "school choice" aspects of AYP, though there are other parts to it dealing with transportation and even supplementary services, so check out the resources after the Q&A for more info!
What is AYP?
AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress. It is something that every school receiving governmental Title I money needs to attain and is based on a number of things including the state testing results.
What if a school doesn't make AYP?
If a school doesn't make AYP for two consecutive years, then the students attending that school have "school choice." There is a letter that should be mailed out from the school if your child attended the previous year. If your child will be a new student at that school the following year, you may need to go to the school to find out whether school choice is an option and if so, to pick up the forms and learn the deadlines to turn it in.
What does school choice mean?
School choice means that the district would provide each student with a choice of two schools that are nearby and are doing fine (not other schools that are also having school choice I believe). The student can choose to stay at their home school OR to attend one or the other of the two choice schools. If a student attends one of the choice schools, they can stay at that school until one of the following occurs: their time in that school ends, for instance staying in an elementary school through the highest grade that it offers (5th or 6th grade, generally); the student chooses to return to their home school; the student chooses to change schools
If a district offers "school choice", who is that available to?
School choice is available to ANY student that would be attending that school either because it is their 'home' school or because it is their 'feeder' school (such as for special needs programs offered only at certain schools).
What if a school didn't make AYP for several years and "school choice" is offered, then they make AYP again?
A school must make AYP for two consecutive years before school choice is revoked for current or new students. Students that have already chosen another school do not lose their ability to attend their choice school. This means that a school that the first year that "school choice" kicks in for a school, that is automatically 2 years of children that have the choice. If the school doesn't make AYP the following year, there are still 2 years. In this way, if a school did not make AYP the current school year and is in school choice, then your newly enrolling child for the following school year definitely has school choice since it requires two consecutive years making AYP for school choice to stop.
Can a "chosen school" deny the admission of a child based on overcrowding or class size?
No. This is important! If the district offers that school as a choice and the family chooses it and is 'accepted' through the choice program, then the school cannot turn down that child's registration based on class size or overcrowding. They must accommodate the child as if the child was living in their school zone.
FL Department of Education: http://www.fldoe.org/nclb/adequate_yearly_progress.asp
FL School accountability reports (perform a search to find your school) http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/default.asp?schoolYear=2008-2009
Broward County (FL) Public schools FAQ for AYP http://www.browardschools.com/schools/ayp.htm
How this all affects us...
As I've written before, we have 5 children all attending one school this year. Next year we were told that there were four different schools that were considerations for different kids of ours. The school our kids currently attend is out of area for us. Emma attends there on a McKay scholarship, which is a Florida state based scholarship due to her special needs and because that school would serve her better than the "natural feeder school" that she would otherwise attend. Kristopher is out of area due to his siblings' placement. The other three at that school are all in PreK and they are not 'zoned' for one PreK school or another, but placed there by their IEP team.
Next year, two of our children (both newly adopted) were ineligible for the McKay scholarship since they've not attended school for two FTE (funding) periods, October and February, prior to this school year. Brianna would be eligible for McKay, but we understand that the school she is attending this year may be closed to accepting new McKay scholarship students next year.
So-- James, Micah, Emma, and Kristopher could stay in their current school, but our other three students wouldn't be allowed to attend there under normal conditions.
We knew that the school that, through the IEP process, was determined to be where Brianna, Aleksa, and Wesley would all need to attend (the other 2 possible schools were ruled out) was not a school that we wanted our children at. It is a 'feeder' school from our home school and has the program that each of them will attend for students in a supported level classroom. Unfortunately, we were running in to closed doors when attempting to get our children all placed together at their current school.
When the letters "AYP" were mentioned, we learned that the school that the three children would be placed at has not made AYP in 5 years and has been in "school choice" status for three. Immediately, with limited information, we tried to find out whether that meant that feeder students also would receive school choice. At that time, we also did not know that school choice was instilled for another year AFTER AYP is made (AYP has to be made two consecutive years for school choice to be removed). So we thought we had to wait until the FCAT test results were in which could be July or August, as school starts, to know whether our children could transfer schools or not.
After learning the last "piece of the puzzle" as it feels like some days, we now know that our children DO qualify for school choice!
How do we know that the school we want them to attend will be one of the choices? Well, there are only 2 schools that have supported level units in our area aside from the school that is not doing well. Since the district has to offer two schools, the school we have our other children at should be one of those two choices.
I REALLY wish that this all would have been told to us without us having to go and 'find it out' on our own... and when we began asking about it that our questions would have been answered rather than, seemingly, being pushed under the rug or ignored. I do not know whether it was really a lack of information and education on the part of the team that we were working with, or whether they were withholding information, knowing that we wanted to keep our children together yet not wanting to provide us with the answer that allowed us to do so. I would like to think they were ignorant rather than malicious.
Now we know, and I'm very glad to 'know', though still without anything definite, that our kids will all be together attending a great school in 2011-2012!!