Here’s the second post in my continuing strand sharing the recommendations on NCLB’s reauthorization made by the 50 State Teachers of the Year. In this document, the TOYs argue in favor of a growth model for measuring student achievement:
Develop a growth model for measuring individual student achievement.
No Child Left Behind set out to close the achievement gap. If the law is going to achieve this goal, we need to acknowledge the growth of struggling students while challenging our gifted students, particularly in lower-income schools.
Why the change is needed:
Nearly all the rewards and punishments in NCLB focus on how many students are testing at "proficiency" by the end of the year—a middle-of-the road benchmark determined by each state. If we can focus instead on how much progress each student has made over the course of the year, we do two things:
1. Create an incentive for the best teachers to take on the lowest-performing students. The same applies to the best principals taking on the lowest-performing schools and the best superintendents taking on the lowest-performing districts.
2. Encourage all students to continue improving their academic skills. Students who enter the year far below grade level usually need more than one year to become proficient, even when they are provided with an excellent teacher. Affirming their progress toward proficiency is critical to their success. Students who enter the year far above grade level should be pushed just as hard as their peers to excel.
Aaron entered my 2nd grade class as a non-reader. By the end of the year, he had advanced to a level 24 as measured by the Developmental Reading Assessment, just shy of the level 28 designated as "proficient." His remarkable achievement should be acknowledged as a success on the part of Aaron, his family, his teachers, and his school.
When Maria entered my 2nd grade class, she was already reading on a 4th grade level. In lower-income schools like mine, the staff is often desperate to raise standardized test scores to avoid being put in school improvement—a designation that tends to stigmatize the school as a failure, drive away qualified staff, and strip both resources and autonomy from the school community. A child like Maria will pass with a "proficient" score whether or not she is pushed to achieve her full potential.
In my class of 20 lower-income students, Maria is one of six in the Gifted and Talented program. These gifted lower-income students have the brilliance and the academic skills to go to great universities someday, and they have the first-hand knowledge of their neighborhoods to transform their communities. If they are to develop perseverance, intellectual risk-taking, and joy in their work, these students must be challenged.
A growth model meets the needs of students at both ends of the spectrum, the Aarons and the Marias, by pushing them to achieve their full potential. It provides the most meaningful measure of effective teaching, particularly for teachers in lower-income schools. A growth model also provides the most effective means of attracting and retaining highly effective teachers, principals, and superintendents in our neediest schools.