- Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, is calling on the federal government to stop measuring student achievement based on the percentage of students who score as proficient on standardized tests.
- NPR reports Polikoff’s concern with the current metric is that it incentivizes teachers to focus on coaching up students who are just below the proficiency line, ignoring those who have no chance of passing and those who will do so safely.
- In a letter to the federal government during a comment period about ESSA regulations, Polikoff recommends averaging test takers’ scores so students at all ends of the proficiency spectrum contribute to the outcome equally based on overall improvement.
Polikoff’s preferred solution, according to NPR, is to measure student growth, but ESSA doesn’t allow for that. His proposal would not be a magic bullet, however. If there is a bell curve of talent in schools, most students fall in the middle, with a small portion of students at the high and low ends of the performance scales. Teachers will still get the most impact for their teaching time if they focus on students in the middle. At least the method doesn’t take away an incentive to differentiate instruction and help everybody improve, though.
President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law in December, replacing No Child Left Behind and returning a significant amount of power back to states and local school districts. Since then, states have grappled with what to do with the increased flexibility and the federal government has worked through rule-making that is expected to wrap up by the end of the year. With testing, specifically, at least a handful of states will be able to develop alternative assessments to measure student achievement.