Educators question how state measures students’ progress

When it comes to the best way to measure a student’s academic progress, there aren’t a lot of easy answers.

That’s why Kentucky is reworking how it measures growth under a new system for evaluating school success that will be fully implemented next fall.

“Growth was supposed to be simpler and it’s not,” said Elisa Beth Brown, director of instructional programs for the Bowling Green Independent School District.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, growth measures whether students are on track to reach proficiency in reading and math. It’s one of many factors schools and districts will be graded on as they transition to the new accountability system this year.

However, education professionals are finding the growth indicator, at least how it’s currently defined, is more complicated than just whether a student’s performance on state tests has improved.

That’s because the indicator measures a student’s projected growth rather than how much they’ve grown academically from one year to the next.

“It’s hard to understand a projection model,” said Cindy Beals, the district assessment coordinator and instructional supervisor for Warren County Public Schools.

For classroom teachers, Beals said, the measure is a “letdown” because it doesn’t recognize the growth they regularly see from their students.

“I do understand what they’re trying to do,” she said of the Kentucky Department of Education. “I think they’ve tried to communicate with us. It’s just hard to understand.”

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