Friday, June 25, 2010

Board gets scorecard accountability results

At last night's Board meeting the Board of Education approved the contract for Bruce Watkins and he joined the Board for his first meeting with us. At the meeting, we also received results of our new educational accountability system, which is based on learning scorecards (also called vision cards). The information that we received is much a more powerful and meaningful report on student achievement across the district by grade level in math and reading than a Board of Education has ever received in our school district. We looked at results for grades K-9 for the entire district and we looked at the results by school.

The test results say that in the majority of grades, in both math and reading, students are making above average progress as compared to students in other schools. The reports also showed us a few grades where students are not making acceptable progress as compared to other schools across the nation. District and school leadership, and teachers as well, will be using this information to fix what needs to be fixed and to reinforce what is working. The testing results is shining a light on student progress in a way that we've never seen before, and it is going to give us the information that we need to identify exactly where we are doing well, and where we need to make significant improvements.

Our accountability system is based on the highly respected NWEA MAP test, which allows us to measure growth at the individual student level, at the classroom level, at the school level and across the district. You can find out more about how this nationally normed testing system works by clicking HERE. NWEA testing norms are based on a population of over one million students who take the tests. Parents who want to understand more about the NWEA testing system can download the "parent toolkit" at the main NWEA testing website.

A student's reading and math scores in a MAP test are reported as RIT scores. The RIT score is grade independent; it is a scale that you might compare to a yardstick. Imagine that you have posted the yardstick on your wall and as your child grows, you measure growth in inches. Every inch of growth is worth the same amount of growth. In the same way, growth can be measured against the RIT scale. When a parent receives the math and reading RIT scores, it comes with information on (a) the child's score at the beginning of the year, and then at the end of the school year, (b) RIT scores from last year (when available), (c) the typical RIT scores for children in the same grade, and all other grades, so that the parent can see where the student is located in both math and reading. The parent can also compare their students growth during the school year to the average growth of other students.

This system provides accountability tools to the district leadership, but it also provides superb reporting to parents. Students now take the MAP test in math and reading three times a year. The teacher and the parent gets information on where each student is in the fall, winter and Spring at the end of the year. No more does the parent hear vague generalities about student progress.

The reports that we received last night provided us with school by school information on how much progress students are making. The statistics show us the percentage of students in each of four categories: (1) the percentage whose annual growth was below the typical rate of growth for similar students and whose scores were below projected proficiency. These are students who started the school year behind, and who didn't make enough progress during the school year as compared to other students. (2) The percentage of students who's annual growth was greater than average, but who are still behind average proficiency. These are students who came to school behind, but made more than a year's progress. They are still behind, but they are on the road to catching up. (3) The percentage of students who perform above projected proficiency, and who also had more than a year's growth. These are kids who are doing very well, and are actually getting further ahead. NWEA monitors this, because of course we want to make sure that all students are growing and all students are challenged, even the students who are already doing well. (4) The percentage of students who perform at above average proficiency, but who didn't grow as much as they were expected to grow.

It might be helpful to understand the kind of data that we are getting to look at the results of one school, Madison. They showed that 12 percent of the students at Madison fell into category 1--students who are behind projected proficiency and who did not make average progress. Fourteen percent of Madison students fell into category 2, that is, they were behind required proficiency but made more than one year's gains during the year. That is, they were on the road to catching up. Fully 53 percent of students at Madison were in category (3). These are students who scored above expected proficiency and also displayed above average educational growth. The remaining students, 15 percent, performed at above average proficiency, but failed to make the expected amount of growth. These are students who are doing "well enough" but who need to make more progress to maintain their proficiency over the years.

We received similar data for every school in the district. As I said, in most grades, we saw that students are making above average progress as compared to students across the country, but in a few grades they are not. Using this districts, principals and teachers can now work together to compare the progress that they are making, grade by grade, classroom by classroom, student by student, and that's exactly what they are doing. They get this information at the beginning of the year and in the middle. They don't have to wait until the end of the year to discover that there are kids who are falling behind. They get just in time data that allows teachers and school leadership to take corrective action.

Finally, this tool gives us the ability to compare what is happening in each school throughout the district, and in each grade from year to year. The idea is that these first results give us a baseline to work from and to attack our problems to improve next year.

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