With the annual release of AYP results, one of the basic questions reporters ask is what will happen to the schools on the state watch list that didn't meet their targets. In particular, which schools will be required to undergo "restructuring," a process that could trigger anything from staff replacement to conversion to a charter school?
This year, the answer to that question is less clear cut than in years past, when MSDE provided a handy label for each of the schools on the watch list: Year 1, Year 2, CA (corrective action), RS Plan (planning for restructuring) or RS Implement (implement restructuring). Possible sanctions, such as giving students the option to transfer and providing them with extra tutoring, corresponded to a school's place in the hierarchy.
But this year, in a move that received little attention but actually seems to be quite significant, the state school board approved a new set of labels. The reason: Maryland is among the six states being permitted by the federal government to try a "differentiated accountability system." In other words, we can now acknowledge that not all failure is created equal. A school that fails to make AYP simply because, say, special education students fell short in math does not require the same kind of attention as a school that failed across the board. The sanctions will be more individualized as well, which is probably a good thing for schools but makes it trickier for us reporters trying to simplify things for the general public.
Here is a short guide to the new jargon:
"Comprehensive needs" means three or more subgroups failed.
"Focused needs" means one or two subgroups fell short.
"Developing needs" schools are schools that were previously labeled Year 1, Year 2 or corrective action -- in other words, the schools most recently added to the state watch list. Sanctions are less severe than for schools labeled:
"Priority needs," which is the new term for schools previously in restructuring planning or restructuring implementation. These are the schools that have been on the watch list for a long time and require more drastic intervention.