Incorporating Student Growth Strengthens the Achievement Index, Outcomes for Students

The Washington State Board of Education is preparing to submit its revised Achievement Index to the federal government to replace Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as the state’s sole accountability framework. This is our opportunity to define our own goals and expectations for students and schools.

A system that only measures students above and below proficiency standards doesn’t tell the whole story. Schools with the same percentage of students meeting proficiency standards can have vastly different rates of growth for different student populations. Schools don’t always control the learning level at which they receive students, but they can control the rate of growth and how quickly they bring students up to standards.

The proposed revisions to the Index make standards more rigorous by creating standards where none previously existed. By incorporating student growth into the Index, the Board sends the message that all schools are expected to grow students.

For students and schools below proficiency standards, they are expected to grow at rates fast enough to meet standards in the near future. For students and schools above proficiency standard, they need to continue to push themselves to higher levels.

Stagnation is not acceptable for students or schools at any level. Everyone needs to improve – that is the central mission of public schools: personal and academic growth.

PROFICIENCY  +  GROWTH  =  SUCCESSFUL STUDENTS  &  SCHOOLS

Student growth won’t replace proficiency standards. They will both be measured in the revised Index, as both contribute to closing the opportunity gap. The only way to close the opportunity gap is to reverse the gaps in growth rates of our most vulnerable students.

When it comes to school accountability, part of the focus should be on how much learning schools impart to students each year.

We see examples of schools that have high percentages of students above minimum standard, but not producing high growth rates. We should ask why. By contrast, we see schools with low percentages of students at standard, but with high growth rates – these schools are sometimes packing twice as much learning into a year as the school down the street. These schools are doing something right. We need to recognize it, and replicate the best practices.

We want every student, and every school, to achieve academic standard. We also expect all students to grow in their learning. These are our two basic, fundamental, and complementary goals.

On June 19, at a special meeting, the Board will take a motion to submit the revised Index to the federal government.

~ Sarah Lane

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