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New Student Assessments Provide More Holistic Perspective of Student Growth

New Student Assessments Provide More Holistic Perspective of Student Growth

In the ever-changing world of public education, the State Department of Education has a new accountability system for student performance called The Next Generation Accountability System.  Director of Curriculum for the Orange Schools Evelyn Russo spoke to the Orange Board of Education at its monthly meeting in April, explaining what the new accountability index is and how it compares to the old performance index.  “It’s important for you to know about the important improvements of this new accountability system.  There are now indicators beyond academic test scores,” she said.  Under the old system, students were strictly analyzed by academics and test scores.

“Now there are 12 indicators and we focus on four of those at the elementary schools,” Russo explains.  “We have some better metrics and academic growth of the same students over time that is now valued where it never was before.  This is something that districts have been complaining about and have been asking the state department to do something about.”

The new system tracks: academic achievement in English language arts, math and science for students in grades four through six; academic growth for students in grades four through six; chronic absenteeism in students in all elementary aged children and physical fitness.  She gave an example, using the English Language Arts index, “Our index is 80.2 with a target of 75.  Our students performed above the target and well above the state average,” Russo said.  “We do have to keep in mind that when we look at these numbers and analyze them, we’re triangulating data and looking at lots of other data as well.  In Orange, 53.8% or our students met the target for growth with 74% growth overall.  We have more growth than many other districts in our DRG, which I think is great news.”

She continues, “We did not perform as high in math as we did in ELA.  While our academic achievement was not as high for the performance index, our growth is good.  We’re going in the right direction with a 74% growth rate.”

Under the new assessment, while looking at chronic absenteeism, districts should fall under 5% of students with chronic absenteeism, which Orange did.  The new physical fitness assessment now has two parts:  a participation rate and an actual performance score, based on health fitness standards that include such challenges as the ‘sit and reach’ test.

Overall, Orange’s accountability index is 77% with Race Brook’s index at 78.4%, Peck at 82.2% and for Turkey Hill, 86.6%.  “I want to bring everyone’s attention to why there is a bit of a discrepancy in scores.  Turkey Hill has a cohort of more than 20 high needs students in ELA and math, but not for science.  We don’t have scores for growth for high needs students, where at Race Brook School there are more high needs students, which makes their index a little lower,” Russo said.

Board of Education member Kimberley Browe asked Russo what she does with the information in her role as curriculum director.  “Does it help you in any way in thinking about what we’re doing?  Or do you see this as something that’s just reporting and you are already addressing what needs to be addressed?”

“I think that if we ‘right-size’ it, it’s helpful if we think about it in the context of everything else that we do.  It’s just a snapshot to help us check on achievement with the standards.  It’s information that is helpful that we can use.  It is the most helpful when we drill down to the student matched cohort instead of just looking at the averages.  We must remember that it’s just a comparison of two scores,” Russo explained.

The full report is available as an Excel spreadsheet found on the State Department of Education (sde.ct.gov) website or by Googling:  ‘next generation accountability report’.

By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent

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