Measuring Growth

Since the “Race to the Top” initiative/competition the education world is all a buzz about measuring student growth. Many states have adapted teacher evaluation models or are creating models that incorporate student growth into how teachers are going to be evaluated. I find it quite odd/disturbing that the most dominant measure of student growth is from Standardized tests.

So I spent some time thinking about growth. I take all 3 of my children to the doctor for an annual check up. The doctor measures their growth: Height, Weight, size of head, potty trained, talking, etc. The data is then placed on a graph and plotted against the “standard’ or norm. My boys height and weight are well above the 100% mark, but they have speech deficits. Are they ahead or behind? or are the just moving at different rates than the average child? My daughter is not above 100% but around 70% on height and weight and she speaks at level. Should I be concerned that she is not at 100%? No since 50% is average or the middle of the “bell” curve.

How does this relate to education?

1. Are we measuring many different skills and judging a composite? Not from where I sit. I see us focusing on 2 basic skills of math and English Language Arts.

2. How much growth is expected? I keep hearing we need to have a years worth of growth in a year. What is that? 100%? Even trees don’t grow the same amount each year. Anyone who has cut down a tree and counted the rings knows this.

So what do we do?

Hard question to answer but lets STOP measuring growth against an average which was calculated using a bell curve where the expectation is 50%  of students will score above average  and 50%  below! Half the teachers will fail on this model!

We also need to expand the model to include all aspects of growth: The PIES.

Physical growth: are students become coordinated, stronger and more fit. – This might help with the current obesity issues in the US.

Intellectual growth: are the students become better thinkers and problems solvers.

Emotional growth: are the students better able to cope emotionally and hand different emotional situations.

Social growth: are the students gaining social skills that will help them in employment.

The current systems are only focusing on a student’s intellectual growth. Teachers have an impact in all 4 areas. Students need to achieve certain base levels of growth in each area. All growth needs to be taken into account if Student Growth is going to be used in teacher evaluations.

I have personally observed a student grow in social and emotional areas but not in intellectual. In time due to the social and emotional growth in one year the intellectual growth will come. As a society we can not just focus in one area. As educational reform moves forward, remember that All growth is important.

We don’t judge parents when their child does not walk, talk or reach a certain height due to the date on a calendar. Lets make sure we do the same for teachers!

All students can learn, just at different rates and in different ways!