Under NCLB, states, school districts, and schools were required to ensure all students had reached grade-level proficiency in English language arts and mathematics by 2014. Each state defined its own requirements for grade-level performance. Schools were then required to make "adequate yearly progress" toward this goal, increasing proficiency rates each year leading up to 2014—the annual rate of increase required was chosen by each state. In order for a school to make adequate yearly progress (AYP), it needed to meet its targets for student English language arts and mathematics proficiency each year. A state’s total student proficiency rate and the rate achieved by student subgroups are all considered in the AYP determination.
Schools that failed to make adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years were identified for "school improvement." These schools were required to draft an improvement plan and devote at least 10 percent of federal funds provided under Title I to teacher professional development. Further, NCLB required that districts spend up to 20 percent of their federal NCLB Title I funds to provide immediate assistance to children attending schools in improvement, through either public school choice or supplemental educational services. During the first year of school improvement, the district was required to offer children the option to transfer to a higher-performing school in the same district. During the second year, the district was further required to offer children supplemental educational services—tutoring and other outside-of-school services designed to improve academic achievement.
For schools that did not improve after four years of failure to make adequate yearly progress, the consequences escalated in severity. In year five, schools were identified for corrective action and required to institute interventions designed to improve school performance, as specified in the legislation. In year six those schools were identified for restructuring, which required more significant interventions. Finally, in year seven, those schools were required to implement a restructuring plan that included: reconstituting school staff and/or leadership, changing the school’s governance arrangement, converting the school to a charter, turning it over to a private management company, or some other major change.
School districts in which a high percentage of schools failed to make AYP for multiple years could also be identified for school improvement, corrective action, and restructuring.
Under ESEA Flexibility, requirements that schools make AYP, adhere to the school improvement timeline, and provide public school choice or supplemental education services for students attending schools identified for improvement were waived for many states. These requirements were not included in the 2015 reauthorization of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and were phased out for the 2016-17 school year during the transition to ESSA.