Educators throughout the state continue to adapt to the changes in the educational world, including how they will be evaluated in the classroom.
A part of that evaluation now is whether or not students can show growth in the classroom from year to year, something that has been overlooked in the past when determining teacher and system success.
This fall, to monitor and track that growth, the state has implemented the Georgia Student Growth Model, a tool that will help educators track individual students’ growth on a yearly basis.
The model will be a part of the new Teacher Keys Evaluation System, which measures teacher effectiveness across numerous standards.
Under the old system, teachers were issued either a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” rating following a 10- to 15-minute observation session from an administrator.
“This is such a time of massive change for our teachers,” said Sarah Bell, director of standards and assessment for Gainesville City Schools. “I think there certainly is some stress every time there is some change. The growth model, I think, is just another way for us to have a piece of the puzzle.”
Essentially, the growth model will measure how a student improves — or regresses — from year to year by calculating a student’s percentage of correct answers on standardized tests and comparing them to the previous two years, as well as to his or her academic peer group.
That growth will be presented as a percentile on a 1 to 99 scale. Students demonstrating growth in the 35th to 65th percentile would be considered acceptable. Their growth would then be coupled with their test scores and presented to systems, teachers and parents.
Under No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress, which have both been left behind in Georgia, student achievement was solely measured by meeting, not meeting or exceeding state-issued standards.
“It’s not replacing that status data – we are still going to know who is meeting and exceeding standards – but then we’re also going to be able to tell if they’re growing from year to year,” Bell said.
Academic achievement, however, is still a main factor under the new accountability system, College and Career Readiness Performance Index.
And now with teachers having to look at both performance measures, some questions arose as to which one should get more emphasis: growth or achievement.
“You can’t separate one from the other and if you did you’d be making a mistake,” said Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction for Gainesville. “If you started to teach just based on growth, it would be far too prescriptive and it wouldn’t necessarily give the student the best achievement scores. The same is true if you just focused on achievement.
“Achievement can happen without growth. Growth can happen without achievement. So, when you look at it that way, it has to be completely integrated.”
Moore said the growth model can potentially help individualize a student’s learning. For example, if a student is consistently meeting or exceeding the standards, but is not demonstrating growth over a period of time, maybe that student needs a greater challenge.
“It guides a teacher in what that child needs,” said Moore. “If they’ve been meeting the bar, the bar needs to go higher for that child to grow.”
This year’s growth measures will help establish a base and will not count against a teacher’s evaluation. Next year, however, student growth will be a determining factor.