FARMINGTON – Schools in Davis County will be judged by a different standard this year.
It is a standard that will emphasize growth and graduation in addition to proficiency and that will measure science and writing skills in addition to language arts and math.
For the past 11 years, a federal standard established by the No Child Left Behind Act measured Adequate Yearly Progress and gave schools a “yes” if students in multiple categories showed sufficient proficiency in language arts and math.
If schools didn’t show proficiency from any of 10 subgroups, whichincluded minorities, limited English proficient students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities, they would receive a “no.” After two years, various sanctions could be instituted, especially in Title I schools.
Last spring, Utah was one of dozens of states to receive a waiver from NCLB. That waiver was conditional on state leaders establishing their own method for assessing student success and growth.
On Friday, Nov. 30, the results of the new testing will be released to the public, and officials in Davis School District are gearing up for that release.
Dr. Logan Toone, director of assessment at the district, addressed members of the Davis School Board on Tuesday, Nov. 20, to explain the new measurements.
Utah’s system of assessment is called the Utah Comprehensive Accountability System and emphasisizes several aspects missing from NCLB, according to Toone. Chief among them are students’ academic growth rates, graduation rates and scores in science and writing.
“This is a much better accountability system because it tends to measure and report the things that we feel are important to our students,” he said. The previous system, he said, “failed to do that.”
Under the old NCLB, every demographic subgroup would have to have 100 percent efficiency in math and language arts by 2014, he said, something that was unrealistic.
It further became a public relations problem when schools received a “no,” even though that designation may have resulted from the scores of one student in a school of hundreds.
Under the new UCAS measure, every school will get 600 total points. Of those, 300 will measure student achievement, such as proficiency on state tests. The other 300 will measure student growth.
At the high school level, 150 points, or one quarter of the whole, are dependent on the school’s graduation rate.
“There is a strong emphasis on completion,” said Toone. “Graduation counts big time.”
The other 150 points in the proficiency category are divided equally between language arts, math and science, with each category worth 50 points. If 70 percent of students are proficient in math, the school would get 35 of its math points.
In elementary and junior high schools, 86 points are available for each of the language arts, math and science categories, and another 42 total points are available for scores in the Direct Writing Assessment category, something that wasn’t measured under NCLB.
The other 300 points that make up schools overall grades come from growth, for which measurement is somewhat “tricky,” said Toone.
“In the old AYP method, the only thing that mattered was whether a student is proficient or not,” he said. “This model makes an attempt to value growth so that even high achieving students are going to be accountable for growth. Growth really matters.”
The challenge, he said, is how to measure growth.
A committee formed to review legislative and federal standards has come up with a Student Growth Percentile.
“It’s kind of a complicated model,” he said, but is statistically sound and makes growth important in every student “regardless of what course I’m in and what kind of student I am,” he said.
“Growth is determined by looking at each student’s score on this year’s assessments compared to a group of ‘academically matched peers’ who achieved similarly on prior CRTs (Criterion-Referenced Test),” said Toone, via e-mail. “Students who score higher than most of their academically matched peers receive high growth scores.”
Students who score lower than their peers will receive low-growth scores. After growth scores are measured, a median score is determined, which then represents the school’s growth.
“It’s important that we understand the instructional implications” of this new assessment, Toone told the board. “Otherwise it’s just a PR business and that’s not what we’re about.”
While NCLB’s aim was to ensure every child was at a minimum proficiency level, Utah’s new assessment system focuses on growth. “Growth is about every kid,” he said. “To move the median you have to move the whole mass.”
Dr. Bryan Bowles, district superintendent, concurred. The old system measured “the number of kids who were over the minimum bar, not seeing how high you could move everyone,” like the new program does, he said.
Schools will be given a number when the reports come out Friday, comparing them to other schools in the state. Reports can be accessed by visiting schools.utah.gov and following the links to “PSD gateway” and then “UCAS report.”