NYS Growth Scores, how can they inform our decisions?

On August 21, 2015, school districts across NYS received growth scores for teachers and principals. The principal growth score is also considered a building growth score and will play a bigger part in teachers’ composite scores next year with the required changes to our APPR (annual professional performance review) plans.

As a superintendent I have been a vocal proponent for school improvement reforms including the alignment to common core standards, teacher and principal evaluation, data informed decision making, and NYS testing for an annual system check and alignment.

Reforms should actually help us to improve our systems. I cannot support the use of growth scores without a thorough and clear explanation of how the scores are determined—the video on www.engageny.org “Growth Scores Explained” sounds logical but it dioesn’t go far enough in helping us to understand and explain what we can do with this information. I also wonder if it’s still an accurate explanation of how those scores are determined.

Consider the story of school improvement in our district. Since 2012, Randolph Central has improved our academic achievement results on NYS tests significantly. In one measure our elementary school has gone from a Business First ranking of 174 out of 276 to 59 and our district has increased its rank from 74 to 44 of 96 Western New York districts. We have had the sharpest 3 year gain of any school district in WNY.

Our incredibly hard working teachers have aligned their instruction, as a system, to the NYS common core learning standards. They have laboriously studied and then taught the Math modules from www.engageny.org. Teachers have modified inadequate ELA modules and struggled to put together a comprehensive ELA program that is aligned to the more rigorous common core standards. They have implemented adaptive testing with diagnostic instruction, participated in data team meetings to ability group all students for academic enrichment in Math and ELA daily, piloted and are now implementing technology based programs as tools for instruction and studied the NYS testing results, gap analysis and annotated released questions. They have done absolutely everything we have asked of them. 

At the same time our growth score has gone down every year. This year that same elementary school–that’s gone from 174 to 59 for its increases in academic achievement received a 10/20 for its growth score down from 14/20 last year and 16/20 the previous year. A growth score of ten puts this building principal at the lowest end of effective.  In the new mandated APPR plans that same ten will equal ineffective in teacher and principal evaluation.

We can basically conclude that the better we do academically the lower our growth score. If growth scores as a reform are meant to improve learning for students, someone needs to help me understand how.

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