Student Achievement Opinion

Achievement vs. Growth: What K-12 Talent Managers Need to Know

By Emily Douglas-McNab — February 22, 2013 2 min read
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In my last blog post, I explained why K-12 Talent Managers should have an understanding of value-added analysis and student growth models. There are many districts across the country using value-added in a variety of ways, but there continues to be a misconception that value-added is simply a measure of student achievement. In actuality, value-added measures estimate the influence that districts, schools, and individual educators have on the academic growth of students.

Achievement vs. Progress
Achievement and progress are often used interchangeably, but their meanings are actually very different. Achievement is a point-in-time measure that evaluates how well students perform against a standard. In contrast, progress is measured by how much “growth” students make over time, typically from one year to the next. Both of these measures are important, but they provide different information.

For years, student achievement has been measured by how well students perform on state tests, either by the mastery of standards or from set grade-level expectations. Similarly, the performance of school districts and school buildings has been evaluated based on the percentage of students who pass these tests. While providing some useful evaluative and student academic information, passage rates are incomplete and, in some ways, unfair measures of teacher effectiveness. Passage rates ignore the varying achievement levels among students and within urban, rural, and suburban communities. Teachers cannot control where students are at the beginning of the year, but educators can impact the progress students make while they are in their classroom.

When achievement and progress information are used together (as shown in the graphic below), it can provide powerful insight into the impact schools and teachers have on student learning.

Denette Kolbe, Assistant Director of Schools in the Putnam County School System in Cookeville, Tennessee contributed to this post. Denette has been an educator for 19 years as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, and Data & Accountability Supervisor at the district level. Denette is a value-added expert who has given numerous presentations on value-added to teachers, principals, and administrators across the state of Tennessee and nationally.

To learn more about Putnam County School Systems you can visit their website or follow the district on Twitter: @PCSSTN. For more information on human capital and continuous improvement in education you can follow Emily on twitter: @EmilyDouglasHC.

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