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December 20, 2014

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Growth model’ of student achievement in place at valley schools

The Clark County School District began following a new model this week to measure student achievement. The growth model will complement other measures of student achievement, such as the federal No Child Left Behind mandate for annual testing, said Pedro Martinez, deputy superintendent of instruction.

Nevada is one of 18 states to follow the growth model, which measures a student’s academic performance over a period of time rather than by an annual test score. It also tracks school-by-school information.

Parents might find the growth model similar to the medical charts they received for their children when they were infants, Martinez said.

Like a doctor would chart an infant’s weight and height to see if a baby is growing at the same rate as peers, the growth model will do the same for schoolchildren with their academics.

Starting this week, parents can log onto the district’s website at to see how individual schools are faring in terms of academic growth. The initial data will reflect the 2010-11 test scores in reading and math for students in fourth through eighth grades. In October, the district will securely release individual student growth data to parents and guardians online through ParentLink and in teacher-parent conferences.

The district plans to roll out growth model reports for students in all grades in the coming months.

The district website will offer video tutorials on the model and how to read a student’s report. Parents may also find online frequently asked questions.

Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones implemented a similar growth model when he was the commissioner of education in Colorado. His special assistant Ken Turner — also from Colorado — explained the model to School Board members this month.

The growth model “answers the question, ‘How much progress on statewide assessments did a student or group of students make in one year, as compared to academic peers across the state?’ ” Turner said in a statement. “Examining student academic growth will help districts and schools plan learning experiences to help students achieve higher levels of academic performance.”

One frustration with No Child Left Behind is that the 2001 law deems schools and students passing or failing without regard to how much improvement students made over a year, he said. As a result, Nevada plans to apply for a waiver to opt out of its stringent all-or-nothing standards.

District officials argue the new growth model is a better measure of student achievement than No Child Left Behind because it takes into account a student’s academic growth regardless of whether they are deemed proficient. Teachers whose students show immense growth — even if the students are technically not proficient — will no longer by penalized.

“The results in the growth model mark an important and different way of viewing student achievement,” Jones said in a statement. “While proficiency continues to remain important for our students, we need to know whether each student [is] on pace to exit high school with the knowledge and skills necessary to enter the workforce or continue their education, whether trade school or college.”

Parents with questions about the new growth model may call a dedicated hotline at 765-9870 or email [email protected]. All inquiries will be answered within one business day, officials said.

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  1. Based on my understanding, I fully support this initiative. I know that many teachers/administrators don't want to be held accountable for students' performance, but I think it's necessary. I also think this is a much more reasonable way to do it than to compare raw test scores.

  2. I am for it as well. I also hope other things are taken into consideration. If a student's performance doesn't grow, can we look at his or her attendance and work ethic before giving his or her teacher the boot?

  3. I think this is a big improvement. They will be able to measure who the high-achieving teachers are vs. the ones who write the assignment on the blackboard and sit at their desk for the rest of the class. (And don't say those teachers don't exist, because I had a couple in high school.)

  4. Yes. This is better than just basing decisions to retain or fire a teacher on AYP designations as mandated by NCLB. Data must be gathered also from other assessments, including teacher-created assessments, not just the annual test given by the state.

    The district has now an on-line data base program called Inform where results of various assessments are entered on a regular basis. This and the NCLB-AYP designation should give an adequate 'picture' of a teacher's performance on instruction and can be used as a part of the overall evaluation.

    Other domains must also be assessed such as the use of data to improve instruction, classroom environment, professional responsibilities, parent involvement, collegiality, attendance, and other factors that make a 'good' teacher.

    These domains can only be assessed through frequent classrooms visits by administrators, parents, colleagues, and other district experts on instruction, as well as input from students.

    If these are all in place, then we can truly say the practice of retaining and firing a teacher is fair.