Giving Compass' Take:

· Steve Martinez and Rick Miller explain that academic growth and test scores are the best ways to understand the progress of students. 

· What is the appropriate amount of weight to put on test scores? 

· Learn more about student progress and how it's measured

With the campaign behind him, incoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has a tremendous opportunity to champion systems and policies put in place to benefit students. One way we can do that is to change the way the state measures progress on its standardized tests in math and English.

The release last month of the state’s standardized test results, which showed only a slightly more than 1 percentage point increase in students who “met” or “exceeded” English and math standards from last year, while discouraging, does not tell the whole story.

It does not help districts figure out which schools are accelerating academic progress and whether strategies that were implemented the year before have translated into improvements. Instead, the state currently reports yearly change, by comparing the scores of this year’s students against the scores of last year’s students who were in the same grade.

Even though educators, parents and policymakers might think change signals impact, it says much more about the change in who the students are because it is not measuring the growth of the same student from one year to the next.

Also, the state reports the percentage of students whose scores were at or above “level three” — the third highest of four achievement levels — another way of saying how many students were proficient, but which tends to obscure the progress made by students who are still getting to proficient.

There is a better way to measure how much each student improves from one year to a next — this measure is called Academic Growth. It measures the acceleration of achievement at a school by accounting for how much each individual student is learning over time. It considers improvement in scores even though a student hasn’t reached the goal of Level 3.

Read the full article about understanding student progress by Steve Martinez and Rick Miller at EdSource.