Recent results show an increase in the overall percentage of middle school students in District 281 making academic growth in math and reading. Elementary students making high growth (1.5 times the average) has also increased.
So what does this actually mean? The Sun-Post asked Tia Clasen, the district’s director of communications and marketing, to explain. Here’s what she had to say.
Sun-Post: What are the differences between “academic growth” and “high growth?”
Clasen: “Academic growth” is any growth made on the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. Having 50 percent of a school or district’s students making typical growth is considered average. Typical growth is measured using the norms created by Northwest Evaluation Association, the company that has created the MAP. (Editor’s note: the NWEA defines “growth” as “the change in a student’s score and improvement in achievement over time.”)
“High growth” is growth (representing) more than a year’s growth within a year’s time. For the purpose of the Nov. 19 school board presentation, high growth was defined as students making 1.5 times the normative (typical) growth. That helps students who are in lower quartiles of achievement catch up more quickly and provide the opportunity for them to reach grade level, and further, proficiency on the MCA Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) tests.
Another way of saying it: if students make more than a year’s academic growth in a year’s time, they are catching up. If they continue to do this, they can get to a level where they could become proficient on a grade level. If they only make a year’s growth in a year’s time, and they start out below grade level, they’ll never catch up.
Q: What is the significance of a double-digit increase? What can educators gather from such a figure?
A: Having a double-digit percentage of students making high growth is remarkable. We want that type of growth, because if that trend continues, scores for students in lower quartiles will soon approach and reach proficient levels – and those who are already proficient can exceed proficiency.
Q: What does the district believe the double-digit increases among students of color are due to?
A: There has been a lot of work in our district surrounding equity that we know will impact classroom instruction and students learning. Further, we continue to implement Response to Intervention, which is a very purposeful approach to intervention with students, no matter where they fall on the continuum. Teachers are analyzing data constantly now to see where students are in their learning and to see where they need to go.
There is a lot of work being done in professional learning communities, where teachers get together to analyze data and to figure out next steps – whether it’s re-teaching for a small group of students who still haven’t learned the skill, or to go deeper for some students who have come in already mastering what will be taught. It’s very intentional work.
B: What are the expectations for spring test results, and what kind of picture can these generatewhen combined with the fall results?
A: Well, spring results for the elementary school will show the fall-to-spring growth, which is what we measure at that level. At the middle level, we analyze fall-to-fall growth. We are excited to see strong growth again at the spring.
As far as this MAP growth translating to results on the MCAs, it’s not a one-to-one correlation (that every student with high growth will be proficient on the MCAs) for a number of reasons, but the biggest reason is that the MCA is a single snapshot of a student’s achievement in their year. It’s a one-day test.
There will be a new reading MCA (the MCA-III) given this spring, so proficiency cut points haven’t been determined by the state yet. However, strong growth throughout the year means the world to us – it’s really a much more accurate picture of how students are doing in school, and we are excited to see our hard work pay off.