State data show that the number of schools that fall short is growing even in high-performing suburban systems. In Fairfax County, which has the Washington region's largest school system, 52 schools missed AYP last year. That was up from 36 the year before. Superintendent Jack D. Dale said the federal accountability system has become so unwieldy that it is losing relevance.
"Where it goes overboard is the sanctions being imposed when we don't have 100 percent of children meeting standards in every subgroup every year," Dale said. "Because that's impossible, and we all know that."
He said the government should consider waiving any penalty for schools in which 90 percent of students pass tests.
In Montgomery, 55 schools missed AYP in 2010, records show, up from 20 the year before.
At North Chevy Chase, with 437 students in grades 3 through 6, classrooms and hallways hummed with learning one afternoon this week. Third-graders were studying English writer Nicola Davies and creating posters for Black History Month. Fourth-graders sorted colored balls of Play-Doh to add numbers. Sixth-graders studied sign language in a computer lab as part of an International Baccalaureate program.
Educators said they are redoubling efforts to help special education students in math. But the school remains unfazed by the AYP miss.
"I wouldn't consider it by any stretch 'failing,' " said Sandy Chambers, president of the school Parent-Teacher Association. "It's hugely supported by the community. It has fabulous teachers."
Gary Bartee, principal of the school from 2006 to 2010, is with the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals. Bartee said he cultivated a low-key attitude at North Chevy Chase toward the Maryland School Assessments. One year, he said, he almost forgot to tell parents about the upcoming tests. "It was that relaxed," he said. Another year, all 49 of the school's African American students showed proficiency in reading - a rare perfect passing rate.
"In 2014, we expect everybody to be perfect," Bartee said. "They have to revisit this, because there are a lot of schools that are going to be in trouble."