News Update

Toolkit posted explaining much anticipated growth model for measuring test scores

Parents and teachers who have picked up references over the past five years to the development of a “growth model” to measure student progress on standardized test scores in California now have a Student Growth Toolkit to explain what it is, why it’s important and when it will be put into actual use (hint: no time soon).

On Monday, the California Department of Education posted the information, which includes Frequently Asked Questions, flyers and a video explainer. Later this week, the department will release data files later with student growth scores for the three years of Smarter Balanced math and English language arts tests preceding the suspension of testing in the spring of 2020 due to Covid-19. These scores, by district, school and student groups, helped the department and the State Board of Education develop California’s student growth model.

A growth measure tracks individual students’ rate of progress on standardized tests over time. Advocates say it provides more insights on student achievement than the method California has been using to measure change: comparing the current year’s test results with the previous year’s students in the same grade and school. Kansas is the only other state that hasn’t adopted a student growth model, according to the Data Quality Campaign. The U.S. Department of Education has encouraged California to speed up its long-promised development.

The particular growth model variation that the State Board of Education chose, after extensive evaluation, is called residual gain. It calculates differences between students’ predicted test scores and actual scores, using students’ previous English language arts and math scores and the scores of all other students in the same grade.

The state will resume Smarter Balanced testing for grades 3-8 and 11 in the spring of 2022. Because it will take three years to produce accurate growth scores the state won’t be producing the first results until the fall of 2024. The state board hasn’t decided whether to incorporate the growth model into the state school accountability system, including the California School Dashboard.