Assessment

A Better Measure of Student Growth?

By Lynn Olson — November 06, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

While interest in judging school performance based on the gains individual students make over time is high, the best way to do so is not even part of the current debate, one veteran testing expert argues.

The best approach, according to education consultant Paul E. Barton, is simple: Give two forms of the same test, one at the beginning of the school year and one at the end.

“‘Failing or ‘Succeeding’ Schools: How Can We Tell?” is posted by the American Federation of Teachers.

“The use of before and after tests to measure improvement has been perfected for over 50 years,” unlike other methods, he writes in a paper prepared for the American Federation of Teachers.

Such tests, he contends, have several distinct advantages: They give teachers information on each student at the beginning of the school year; they use known technologies; they can be clearly aligned with the content standards and curriculum for the year of instruction; and the results are readily understood.

In addition, Mr. Barton notes, models that compare progress from the end of one year to the next do not take into account large differences in children’s summer experiences.

One study found that the different amounts of progress that students make during the four summers between the 2nd and 6th grades accounts for more than 80 percent of the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged and advantaged students.

Once before and after tests were in place, Mr. Barton says, policymakers still would need to decide how much growth is enough.

But that could be done, for example, by looking at how much gain is typical, how much gain occurs in the classes of particularly effective teachers, and how wide the distribution of average-gain scores is among schools.

When a standard has been set for how much students should learn during a school year, it should be applied across the board and be broken down by subgroup, adds Mr. Barton, a former director of the policy-information center at the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service.

A version of this article appeared in the November 08, 2006 edition of Education Week

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Data Young Adolescents' Scores Trended to Historic Lows on National Tests. And That's Before COVID Hit
The past decade saw unprecedented declines in the National Assessment of Educational Progress's longitudinal study.
3 min read
Assessment Long a Testing Bastion, Florida Plans to End 'Outdated' Year-End Exams
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will shift to "progress monitoring" starting in the 2022-23 school year.
5 min read
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site in Pembroke Pines, Fla., on Aug. 18, 2021.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he believes a new testing regimen is needed to replace the Florida Standards Assessment, which has been given since 2015.
Marta Lavandier/AP
Assessment Spotlight Spotlight on Assessment in 2021
In this Spotlight, review newest assessment scores, see how districts will catch up with their supports for disabled students, plus more.
Assessment 'Nation's Report Card' Has a New Reading Framework, After a Drawn-Out Battle Over Equity
The new framework for the National Assessment of Educational Progress will guide development of the 2026 reading test.
10 min read
results 925693186 02
iStock/Getty