Up Against the Wall
Standing against the kitchen wall was a ritual when my sisters and I were kids. First we’d take off our shoes and stretch ourselves to be as tall as possible; then either Mom or Pop would mark our height and write the date next to the mark. We’d do this every six months or so, so we could see if we were getting any taller. When our little brothers got big enough to be included, we used the kitchen doorframe. I’m sure lots of families still do that.
Education is embracing that concept. Naturally, educators have given it two fancy names, “the growth model” or the “value added” approach. Basically, it means testing students at the beginning of the year and then again at the end, to see how much they’ve learned. Under this approach, a year’s worth of academic growth in a school year is the minimum measure of success. Less than that, failure.
Actually, some supporters of the growth model say they expect low-performing students to advance more than one year in a given school year, so that they reach grade level. Kati Haycock of the Education Trust, a wary supporter, is adamant that growth models not be a subterfuge “to let schools, districts, and...
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