State to apply for alternative way to measure school progress | NevadaAppeal.com

State to apply for alternative way to measure school progress

Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

The Nevada Department of Education is applying to be one of 10 states to use a growth in a student’s achievement to measure adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind.

“The current model does not represent growth,” said Paul LaMarca, assistant superintendent of assessment, curriculum and evaluation for the Nevada Department of Education who is heading up the application process. “Putting growth into the model makes it more consistent with the No Child Left Behind process.”

While U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says states can use the models for the 2005-06 year, the Nevada Department of Education would start in the 2006-07 year.

“I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of states applying,” LaMarca said. “My guess is that many of those states, like Nevada, are looking for implementation in 2006-07.”

Thursday is the deadline to apply.

The state’s proposal seeks to measure proficiency of a child based on his or her learning progress over one year. Currently, the definition of progress under No Child Left Behind considers the end point of proficiency and doesn’t consider a child’s starting point.

“No matter where that child starts at the beginning of the school year (now), at the end of the year they end up having to meet a certain mark,” said Carson City School District Superintendent Dr. Mary Pierczynski. “For some children coming into the district, it could be three to four years before they meet that mark.”

Even if a state is permitted to use the growth model, it is still expected to obtain 100 percent student proficiency by the 2013-14 school year, the goal of No Child Left Behind legislation.

“(The growth model) would certainly be no panacea,” said Mike Watty, associate superintendent of education services for the Carson City School District. “It’s certainly not that much easier to get the kids to a level of proficiency, but it will give the schools more indicators than the current model does whether they’re going in the right direction.’

The state would continue to use criterion reference tests as the standard for proficiency, but a growth component would be used to track their level of proficiency on those tests. For example, points could be given for progress when a child moves upward.

“It’s going to be a complicated formula where you have to take into account some students moving up or moving down,” Watty said.

Even if the federal government does not accept the state’s application to use the growth model under No Child Left Behind, the state might consider running its own growth analyses concurrent with the adequate yearly progress results of No Child Left Behind.

Whether the growth model means more students would meet achievement levels, and thus more schools make adequate yearly progress, remains to be seen.

“The (growth) model can be very complicated,” LaMarca said. “But it’s definitely an improvement to the accountability system. We don’t anticipate we’ll wake up tomorrow and suddenly 200 schools will have made AYP that would otherwise have failed AYP. That’s not the case. But it is more realistic and more consistent with what educators consider it to mean to be a consistent educator. Over time, there will be more buy-in and the system as a result will be more credible.”

Applications will be reviewed by U.S. Department of Education-appointed teams, with final recommendations due by May.

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.