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At their meeting on May 12, members of the State Board of Education are expected to finally adopt what other states have adopted and what’s been under study for years in California: a way to include individual students’ progress on state standardized tests as part of the state’s school accountability system.
State board members agree with the criticism of advocates of student equity and school accountability hawks that a “student growth model” should replace what the state now uses to measure student achievement on the California School Dashboard. That current method compares the test results of the latest 4th graders with the previous year’s 4th grades to calculate change as an element on the dashboard.
Other states track the scores of individual students over time to measure if they are progressing or regressing. The U.S. Department of Education pressed California to adopt a similar growth model, too, when it approved the state’s plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The state responded that it was in the works. For a number of years, the CORE Districts Data Collaborative has used a student growth model it developed for dozens of member districts.
There are several ways to measure students’ growth, and the state board chose what’s called a “residual gain” model. It calculates differences between students’ predicted test scores and actual test scores, using previous English language arts and math scores, as well as the scores of all other students in the same grade. But skeptical that the residual growth model would prove reliable and stable from year to year, the state board hired the test contractor ETS to make technical adjustments. It did, and technical reviewers for the state board are recommending the revised model be adopted.
The history and technical details are explained in detail in Item 4 of the board’s meeting agenda, which was posted last Friday.
The new growth model will be applied to English language arts and math test scores in grades 4 to 8. It can’t be used for 3rd grade because it’s the first year that students take Smarter Balanced tests (growth models need at least a year of growth) or for the 11th grade test results, because students don’t take Smarter Balanced in 9th or 10th grades.
One other wrinkle: Because of the pandemic, no students took Smarter Balanced tests in 2020, and many districts may not give it this year, under an agreement reached with the federal government. As a result, the first calculations using the new student growth model, incorporating three consecutive years of testing, won’t be released until December 2024, at the earliest. That will mark nearly a decade since the California Department of Education first looked at the issue, in 2015.
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