Growth Model Gives Schools No Child Left Behind Alternative

As Nevada struggles to keep up with No Child Left Behind targets, an alternative is being piloted and gives hope to students and teachers alike.

Nevada has initiated a pilot program called the Nevada Growth Model, which measures the rate students progress compared to other Nevada students. The model places the priority on academic growth ahead of whether students reach grade-level expectations on annual tests, writes Trevon Milliard at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

It’s important to teachers like Orr Middle School Principal George Leavens, because many Orr students start behind, something made clear by poor test scores. They have to play academic catch-up, and measuring students’ growth — even when that falls short of testing goals — credits them for making improvements.

The Nevada Growth Model takes a student’s test score in year one and finds all other students in the state who earned similar scores. Then, that same student’s scores are looked at for year two and compared to the same students in the group.

State education officials want to substitute the Nevada Growth Model for federally mandated No Child Left Behind requirements, which don’t factor in growth at all.

Students and their scores now either make the cut or not. It’s pass or fail, black or white.

The Clark County School District isn’t a success under No Child Left Behind, but that’s not the full story, said Ken Turner, special assistant to the super¬intendent.

Clark County students learn at a rate on par with other Nevada schools, according to the growth model’s tracking of fourth-graders through eighth-graders in math and reading. The model compares students’ annual test scores from 2009-10 to 2010-11.

If the public’s response to the growth model is positive, the training wheels will come off and benchmarks will be put in place for students.

More than a dozen other states are also using similar growth model pilot programs, Rheault said.

The change in assessing student progress has earned support from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who said the growth model is needed to “modernize” the way educators are held accountable.

“The growth model is helping to show the way,” Sandoval said.

Leavens said the goal for Orr’s teachers isn’t necessarily bringing students up to grade level right away. For struggling students, the challenge is putting them on track to be proficient a few years down the road.

Teachers meet with each student, telling them what’s needed to catch up, he said.

“Gives them hope, a plan,” he said.

Turner said the model’s “desired impact” will be for struggling schools to share effective techniques with other schools facing the same challenges.

Maintaining fast-paced growth is a must if Orr’s students are to graduate. If they just maintain minimum growth from academic year to academic year, they will always be behind, Leavens said.

“It’s not one size fits all,” Leavens said.

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September 1st, 2011

Staff Reporter EducationNews.org

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