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Wayde Byard, a spokesman for Loudoun County Public Schools, agreed.

“This is obviously now an invalid measure,” he said.

As a school division, 92 percent of Loudoun students passed reading and 89 percent passed math on state SOL tests, Mr. Byard said.

“In what alternate universe are 92 percent and 89 percent failing?” he asked. “We’ll use it as a learning tool, but as a measure of how we’re doing as a school division, it really has no validity.”

Loudoun was one of a handful of Northern Virginia jurisdictions that did not meet the federal benchmarks. Others included Arlington County, Prince William County and the city of Alexandria.

“The bottom line is it doesn’t have much to do with student improvement. … The way the NCLB has been implemented is atrocious,” said Morton Sherman, superintendent for Alexandria City Public Schools.

As a result of the higher standards, 342 schools that made AYP in the previous cycle did not this time around, according to the state education department.

Forty percent, or 292, of the state’s 730 Title I schools, which provide educational services to low-income children and are the focus of most of the law’s accountability provisions, made AYP.

Such schools that don’t meet benchmarks in a subject area for two or more straight years are identified for improvement. Those schools must offer students the option of transferring to a higher-performing school, provide supplemental educational services or offer tutoring free of charge to eligible children who request it, for example.