Rocketship Education on the Connection Between Growth Scores and Student Progress

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Today’s parents are often overwhelmed at the amount of testing and evaluation that goes on in their child’s schooling, but these metrics are highly important and as educators at Rocketship Education, a premier charter school, note, helping parents understand these metrics is incredibly important. Many of these tests, while they seem to be just exercises in compliance, actually provide a lot of valuable information as to how the student is doing in school. When these scores are aggregated, it provides a good indicator of how far the student body as a whole progressed academically. More than that though, they can provide excellent insight into how individual students are progressing.

As Rocketship Education teachers and other educational experts point out, state proficiency tests like Tennessee’s TNReady, are incredibly valuable and provide a lot of insight into how well the state is meeting its academic goals. This will give educators a keen understanding as to how the elementary school students in the state are performing with relation to previous measures and national averages. But this is not the only important test and there is more that can be gleaned from these tests than just how well a school is meeting federal requirements. It also helps parents to see general student progress too.

The NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a set of measures that can help students and parents evaluate the progress of individual students as well. Experts at Rocketship Education point out just how valuable this can be in identifying students that might need extra assistance or who may benefit from an advanced learning program, in addition to providing basic valuable metrics about student retention and proficiency.

As Rocketship Education teachers note, tests like TNReady are valuable, but all they really do is show if a student is current with the learning outcomes expected at their grade level. It provides very general information, but doesn’t really drill down on the problem areas. This is where other tests and measurements can come in and fill in the gaps, helping ensure that fewer children fall between the proverbial gaps in the education system by allowing educators to identify areas that the student is struggling in before they fall too far behind.

Other measures can help determine the amount of progress a student has from their previous starting point, not where students of said grade level are typically at in a given point in time. Over 7,400 around the world use the NWEA MAP test as a means to track student progress and use the data to help tailor learning outcomes to the student’s needs. This is incredibly important as it has been shown repeatedly that students that come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are those that are most likely to fall behind.

In Tennessee, a good number of students come from economically disadvantaged households, making these tests even more important to ensure that they get the help and tailored education they need for success. Rocketship Education understands that while those who come from a disadvantaged background, it does not mean that they cannot catch up and be provided with the tools they need to meet their potential. Even though some 70% of students who go to Rocketship Education schools in Tennessee come from a disadvantaged background, their test scores do not mirror those from similar backgrounds from other schools.

MAP scores have been used at Rocketship Education to help track student progress with the closing of achievement gaps. At Tennessee schools last year, 146 students closed their achievement gap, meaning they progressed to at our above the metrics expected at their particular age or grade level. Of course this requires excellent teaching, attention to detail, and dedication, but these scores help show teachers that their work is paying off and the methods they are using are effective. Measuring students at various points in the year also gives far more real-time information about progress than an annual test provides.

While for many parents, it might seem like the endless battery of tests and metrics are pointless for their child, they could not be more wrong. These tests do provide aggregate data about how students in a school, district, or state are doing generally, but they also provide a lot of valuable and actionable data about individual students as well. Identifying where students are struggling, tailoring their education to help correct for deficiences, and then regularly testing their progress helps ensure that they do not get left behind and meet their potential. Schools that actively use these metrics like Rocketship Education have had remarkable progress in closing achievement gaps and getting their students up to speed or even ahead of the proverbial curve. Good metrics combined with dedicated educators who are willing to give their all to their students helps foster success, even in students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are the most likely to struggle.

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