Academic Growth

Student academic achievement reported in the form of a test score or letter grade conveys what students know and are able to do at a certain point in time. However, student academic achievement measured at one point in time does not reveal a student’s academic growth. When a student’s score is viewed in isolation it can’t tell you if that student has made relatively normal progress, a huge leap forward, or lost ground. By looking at students’ academic growth schools and districts can see just how much academic progress their students are making. By combining achievement and academic growth we gain information that helps us better ensure that every child is a graduate ready for college and career.

All growth data need to be examined in context of other data sources and should not be used in isolation. Examining other types of evidence of students’ skills and knowledge is needed to evaluate and refine initial hypotheses. Other data sources at the school level may include classroom projects, lab reports, reading journals, unit tests, homework or teacher observations.

How the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Measures Academic Growth:

Academic growth is the measure of a student’s progress between two points in time. Methods of measuring growth range from subtracting last year’s test score from this year’s test score to complex statistical models that account for differences in student academic and background characteristics.

Different methods of calculating growth help answer different questions. For this reason the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction uses three different statistical models to report on growth: (1) Student Growth Percentiles (SGP), (2) Value-Added Models (VAM), and (3) a gain score model. Below are descriptions of these models and examples of questions the models are designed to answer.

  1. Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) compare a student’s growth to the growth made by students with similar score histories.

    SGP Example Questions: Is one student’s academic growth what we expect compared to his or her peers? Is this student growing at a rate to become proficient by next year?

    Sample student growth report

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  2. Value-Added Models (VAM) measure change in students' performance over a period of time. However, unlike other growth models, VAM also measures how much a particular instructional resource, such as a school, teacher, or education program, contributed to that change. This measure takes into consideration variables that are out of the control of the school or teacher.

    VAM Example Questions: How effective is this school’s reading program? How does the value added by schools in my district compare to other districts’ schools? 

Example Value-Added School Summary Report Visualization

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Note - with fall testing, value-added reports are grouped by the prior academic year.  For example, reports published in spring 2012-13 are based on the fall 2011 (2011-12) to fall 2012 (2012-13) WKCE and are therefore grouped under "2011-12", the academic year in which most of the measured growth occurred.

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  1. Gain Scores document the change in a student’s score from one test administration to the next.

    Gain Score Model Example Questions: How did student achievement change from one year to the next? How did the change in the performance of one student group compare to other groups?

    Example Gain Score Report
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How Academic Growth is Used in Wisconsin’s Accountability and Educator Effectiveness Systems

Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) are used for the Student Growth Priority Area in the School Report Cards and District Report Cards. SGPs are used to establish target growth trajectories to determine whether students are “on track” to move up or down one or more proficiency levels within a set period of time. Schools and Districts gain points for students who are on track to move up, and lose points for students who are on track to move down to below Proficient.

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A Value-Added Model (VAM) is used as one measure of teacher and principal effectiveness in Wisconsin’s educator effectiveness system. The Value-Added Research Center at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, which has a long history of working with educators in Wisconsin and around the nation, is developing and refining the use of value-added teacher- and school-level modeling.

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