The 95% Participation Rate and How Schools Do NOT Lose Funding
To begin, here is the BOTTOM LINE: A school district does NOT lose funding if there is less than 95% participation on state tests.
Let us look at the details:
1.) All Districts/Schools – It is true that NCLB dictates that all districts/schools must have at least 95% participation on state tests in order to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). According to NCLB, any district/school that does not reach the 95% participation is considered a district/school that “failed to make AYP”. They must bear this label. Here is a helpful resource that explains this nicely and lists resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adequate_yearly_progress
2.) Non-Title I Districts/Schools – Non-Title I districts/schools that have less than 95% participation on state tests must wear the dunce-cap that says “failed to make AYP”, and they may need to compose a written plan for improvement. However, there is NO impact on funding. Here is a 2012 link that shows which schools are Title I: http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/titlei/fy12/newyork.pdf
3.) Focus Districts/Schools – At the end of the 2011-12 school year, NY sunset the accountability continuum of districts/schools in improvement, corrective action, and restructuring status based on failure to make AYP. Instead, at the end of the 2011-12 school year five percent of districts/schools in the state were identified as “Priority” and ten percent as “Focus” districts/schools. As part of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver that NYS received from President Obama (which continues through the end of the 2014-15 school year), no new districts/schools will be identified as “Focus Districts/Schools” after the end of the 2011-12 school year. Those districts/schools that are currently listed as “Focus Districts/Schools” can have that label removed if they complete certain requirements and meet AYP. This link gives more details: http://usny.nysed.gov/docs/10-things-to-know-about-the-esea-waiver.pdf
4.) Focus District/School, AND Title I – Any district/school that is a focus district/school and also Title I, must set-aside 5-15% of Title I & II money that they have received into a separate set-aside account. The money is NOT taken away from them. This is Title I & II money that has already been given to them, and they must set-aside 5-15%. Please note that the 95% participation rate has not yet been brought into the discussion at this point. The discussion at this point includes ALL districts/schools that are currently listed as “Focus Districts/Schools” and are also Title I. This link gives more details: http://usny.nysed.gov/docs/10-things-to-know-about-the-esea-waiver.pdf
UP TO THIS POINT IN OUR DISCUSSION, THERE IS NO FUNDING CONSEQUENCE FOR FAILURE TO MEET THE 95% PARTICIPATION RATE.
5.) Focus District/School, Title I, AND Less Than 95% Participation – Remember, no new districts/schools will be identified as “Focus” until after the end of the 2014-15 school year, so this section only applies to current “Focus Districts/Schools”. If your district/school is not currently listed as “Focus” then this section will not apply to you. With that said, if a current “Focus District/School” meets all the requirements that are asked of them, they can request to have the “Focus” label removed. They would therefore no longer have to set-aside 5-15% of Title I & II funding. However, if they complete all the other requirements and still fail to meet the 95% participation rate, then they would technically not be able to remove the “Focus” status and thus would still be required to set-aside 5-15 % of Title I and II money. This brings up 2 points:
a.) What happens to the money that is set-aside? This money stays in the district, and the state requires that it be used for state-approved programs and services which might include tutoring for students, parental involvement, etc. THIS MONEY IS NOT LOST. And any of this money that is not spent on the state-approved programs and services is returned to the district’s general fund.
b.) If the only reason that a district/school failed to have the “Focus” status removed was because more than 5% of the district/school’s parents decided not to allow their children to participate in harmful tests, then the lawyers of the school district would certainly take notice. It seems unlikely that a court would allow funding to be impacted in any way due to the responsible actions of well-informed parents, especially since the district/school has no control over this. To date there has been NO indication of any district/school anywhere in the state being impacted financially for failure to meet the 95% participation rate.
To conclude, here is the BOTTOM LINE: A school district does NOT lose funding if there is less than 95% participation on state tests.
Let’s consider a worst case scenario. Let’s say that a district/school happens to be Title I. Let’s assume that they fail the 95% participation rate. Let’s assume that the ESEA Waiver is imaginary (like Peter Pan). Let’s assume that the district/school is not listed as “Focus” for any other reason other than the 95% participation rate. Let’s assume that the NYSED forces the district to set aside 15% of their Title I money solely because responsible well-informed parents refuse tests (even though NYSED has never done this to date). Let’s assume the school district does not stand-up for the children and does not file a lawsuit. Let’s assume that a court does not intervene to prevent funding loss to school children. Let’s assume that all of the set-aside money happens to be spent on state approved programs (that are somehow supposed to magically fix the participation rate caused by responsible well-informed parents standing up for their children). Let’s assume that none of the set-aside money goes back into the general fund. Let’s assume that this district receives $1,250,000 in Title I funding and has to set-aside $187,000 (15%) and is forced to spend all of it on state approved programs (that won’t fix the participation rate). Let’s assume that this district has 15,000 taxpaying households.
Let’s assume that ALL of that above happens (which seem ridiculous). Then each taxpaying household would have to come up with an extra $12.50 per year ($187,000 divided by 15,000 households) to replace the money spent on senseless programs. Wow! $12.50 per year??? Still worried about funding???