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Progress in Education: growth model v. proficiency model Part 2

February 17, 2017
Jacob Jenkins - Special to the Tribune , Pierce County Tribune

Welcome back to class! In the last column I talked about the proficiency model through which schools are judged, and the ongoing debate among education professionals between proficiency models and growth models. Today we will be continuing our main topic: proficiency model vs. growth model. Our learning goal for today is to understand what growth model is.

As you will recall, a proficiency model is one in which a school is judged on a state exam according to the number of students that are proficient in their grade area. The growth model is quite a bit different than the proficiency mode in this regard. In the growth model, individual student's scores are looked at and compared through their education to see that learning is taking place. The school is judged upon the number of students who are increasing their learning rather than the number of students who are proficient.

The growth model still uses proficiency as a measure that it hopes that all students achieve. Proficiency, again, means that students understand and are able to do the required skills at their given grade level. The growth model, though, looks at the long view of a student's education.

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Students are placed upon a scale (see the sidebar for an explanation of growth model scales) to find out their level of proficiency. Every year they would be checked to see if their proficiency has increased, decreased, or remained static. While this data would be collected, it would not be the sole indicator of a school's quality.

The state would have to change its assessment tool to be one that is growth minded, such as the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) evaluation. Evaluation models like the NWEA create a numerical learning scale and score students upon that scale. For example, the NWEA scale ranges from below 140 to over 230. When a student takes the NWEA assessment, it give a numerical range that their ability falls under. Teachers can use this range to determine the approximate grade level the student is functioning at. For example, a 9th grade student scores a 218 on the NWEA reading assessment. We can look at that number and compare it with grade level proficiency and we'd see that 218 is an average score for a 7th grade reader. We can see that this 9th grader is reading below his expected grade level.

This is where the distinction of the growth model sets in. Students in a growth model are given assessments two or three times a year either in the fall and spring, or in the fall, winter, and spring. Teachers are able to track their scores. If their scores increase, it indicates that they are learning and becoming better in this skill area. If their scores decrease, it indicates that they are not learning or that their skills are getting worse. If their scores remain static, it indicates they are neither learning nor are their skills decreasing. You may be thinking to yourself, "Hey self, what does this have to do with proficiency vs. growth models in school?" This is an excellent question. One that will be answered when we next meet! For today, however, class is dismissed.

Jacob Jenkins is an English teacher at Central High School. He holds a Master of Educational Leadership degree from UND and is currently working on completing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership through UND. He is the son of Deb and the late Bob Jenkins, of Rugby. The opinions and views expressed in these columns represent those of Mr. Jenkins and are in no way representative of Minot Public Schools or the University of North Dakota. Please contact Mr. Jenkins with any comments, opinions, or future ideas you would like to read about at:



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