NWEA: High-poverty schools can still have high student achievement growth
- While it’s clear there is a strong connection between high poverty and low student achievement, a new analysis of growth data on MAP reading and math assessments shows a much weaker relationship between high poverty and low rates of growth, according to NWEA, the nonprofit organization that developed the assessments.
- The lowest income schools in a sample of 1,500 schools — where at least 90% of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch — included those with low student growth and high student growth.
- The findings, according to study author Andy Hegedus, a research consulting director at NWEA, have implications for how states measure school improvement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Putting a higher weight on achievement levels in accountability systems “fails to adequately recognize schools that are producing excellent growth,” he writes.
Allowing states to incorporate measures of student progress into their accountability systems is a major difference between the former No Child Left Behind Act and ESSA. “Recognizing growth provides schools incentive to improve the performance of all students—from those who start school the furthest behind and may not reach proficiency in the first few years to the higher performers who are already proficient and ready to move to advanced achievement,” Jim Hull, the director of impact for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, wrote in an article last fall.
In its analysis of states’ accountability plans last year, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute recommended that states use growth measures that amount to at least half of a school’s overall ratings. Experts, however, still say it’s important to measure students’ year-to-year progress toward a specific goal. A 2017 report from the Council for Chief State School Officers, where Chris Minnich — now CEO of NWEA — served as executive director, provides guidance on the types of short- and long-term goals that states might include under ESSA.
“It is important for states to have a long-term vision and accompanying long-term goals. For functioning accountability systems, it also may be important to create intermediate and longer-term goals that are distinct, but move towards that long-term vision,” the report said.
In his paper, Hegedus writes that it’s also important to make sure a school’s growth is publicly reported. “Knowing how students are growing helps parents and the public understand how well the school is serving students and whether the school is becoming more effective over time,” he writes.
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