Student Growth Model Enlightens Public … Financial Transparency Next?

More clear, accurate, available and usable information about public education is a good thing – good for parents, teachers, policy makers, and taxpayers — and ultimately for students like me. One good example of a step forward in this area is the Colorado Department of Education (CDE)’s new student growth model, featured in today’s Denver Post:

The model shows how students have grown academically compared with peers in the same grades with similar scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program over the past two years.

“The bottom line is, the model tells us how much growth the child has made and whether that growth is good enough to meet state standards,” said Richard Wenning, associate education commissioner.

Other states have adopted growth models, but Colorado is the nation’s first to use percentiles to describe the growth, Wenning said.

Fortunately, the growth model doesn’t just compare students with their peers. It also uses an objective standard:

The district’s summary also looks at how much growth is enough for students to reach proficiency within three years, or by 10th grade.

Those figures also are broken down by race, income level and gender.

For example, in Denver, 23 percent of low-income students who have been below grade level are expected to become proficient within three years.

In Cherry Creek School District, 28.9 percent of low-income students below grade level are expected to catch up.

Jefferson County is doing slightly better: 30 percent of low-income students below grade level are on track to reach proficiency in three years.

CDE’s growth model should be a supplement, not a replacement, to other assessment and accountability data. It helps to give the public a fuller and clearer picture of how well schools and students are performing.

Now if only we had the same kind of push for more disclosure on public education inputs. In other words, we all would benefit from greater online transparency in school district budgets and spending. Hawaii is doing it: Why can’t Colorado?