State Board Oks New Measure of Student Growth
The Nebraska State Board of Education has approved implementation of a new plan for school accountability and it will begin to phase in beginning this school year.
The Nebraska Performance Accountability System (NePAS) will be the first state accountability system that will measure student growth. The State Board approved the plan in August.
NePAS will measure student performance in reading, writing, math and science, with scores assessed in grades 3-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. The plan will judge each school in those four subject areas and grade level configurations on status (the average of scores in the subject areas) and on improvement, or how much scores improve from year to year. For instance, the plan will compare reading scores of this year’s fifth graders to reading scores of last year’s fifth graders.
In addition, the plan will measure students in grades 3-5 and grades 6-8 on reading and math growth, or the progress made by students as they move through one grade level to the next in those subjects. Not every grade is tested in science and writing, and growth will not be a part of the grades 9-12 reporting measures.
The multiple measurement approach has great value, said Valorie Foy, director of statewide assessment for the Nebraska Department of Education.
“Some states reduce assessment to one number or ranking,” said Foy. “That is not what this model does. There are multiple rankings for grades and schools. The point is that this lets you see the areas in which you are being successful.”
NSEA Director of Instructional Advocacy Jay Sears has worked with the State Board and the Department of Education on NePAS. He believes educators will find the growth measurement details to be most helpful.
“This will be most useful for classroom teachers and building units to look at in setting classroom goals,” he said. “Teachers will be able to answer the question ‘did we add value to what we taught?’”
The first scores will appear with the annual Department of Education Report Cards around Oct. 31. Those scores will rank each district, by building configuration, in each of the four categories. For instance, the rankings will list each school district in each grade 6-8 configuration for reading, writing, math and science.
“Someone will be last, even if that school is outperforming all the other schools in the nation,” Sears said.
Three Years Away
Meanwhile, Nebraska does not have a waiver from the provisions of No Child Left Behind and the onerous annual yearly progress (AYP) rankings that are the hallmark of NCLB will remain in place. That may cause confusion, said Sears, as a district could receive a “needs improvement” designation under NCLB, yet rank among the top systems in the state under NePAS.
The NePAS system is better than the AYP process, said Sears, “where a school needed a checkmark in just one of 37 categories to land on the under-achieving list.”
Foy is not fond of the rankings that come with standardized tests, but said the multiple measures will provide added, useful information. Teachers may see that their school’s status is not as high as another school’s status, but at the same time may see that their school is making improvement, she said.
It will be three years, said Sears, before the data will yield any growth numbers. State Board members, meanwhile, appear ready to let the program evolve.
“The board committee is willing to modify this program as it goes along,” he said. “There are concerns about making this useful for schools and teachers.”
For details, contact Sears at 1-800-742-0047, or check the Nebraska Department of Education website at: www.education.ne.gov