In October, New York State is submitting a growth model proposal to the U.S. Department of Education, I learned at last week’s public forum on the proposal. What would school and district accountability look like under the new model?

For grades 3-8, schools would earn points towards meeting Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for each student scoring proficient or above (a level 3 or 4 on state tests), but would also earn full points for level 1 and 2 students whose growth indicates that they are on track to become proficient within a four-year period.

A simplified example of how the growth model would determine whether a student is on-track to proficiency.
A simplified example of how the growth model would determine whether a student is on-track to proficiency.

The graph above provides an oversimplified example. The blue line represents the cutoff score for proficiency at each grade level. Bill and Ted each start out 100 points below proficient. In 4th grade, Bill has gained enough that he is now only 70 points below proficient. As you can see by the red line, if he continued to grow at this rate, he would reach proficiency easily by 7th grade. Therefore, Bill is deemed to be on-track to proficiency, and his school would get full credit towards Annual Yearly Progress for him.

Ted, on the other hand, is still 95 points below proficient in 4th grade. He made more than a year’s growth, but if he continues to grow at this rate, he will not reach proficiency by 7th grade. Ted’s school would not get full-credit towards AYP for him.

Of course, in real life, students don’t grow at exactly the same rate every year. The model addresses this by recalculating the gap between the student’s score and the proficiency cutoff each year, and dividing by the years remaining to set a proficiency target for the following year.

For example, Bill and Ted both started 100 points below proficient, so they would have had the same target for 4th grade: to close that gap by 25 points (100/4). Bill easily met his target, and is now only 70 points below proficient, so his new target would be to close the gap by 23.3 points (70/3). Ted, on the other hand, still had a gap of 95 points by the end of 4th grade, so his new target would be 31.7 points (95/3).

When a child moves to a new school, growth targets are recalculated based on 4 years.
When a child moves to a new school, growth targets are recalculated based on 4 years.

The growth model is designed to be more to schools by recalculating a child’s growth targets when he or she moves to a new school, giving the school a full four years to bring that child to proficiency. In the graph above, Chris is not on-track to proficiency in 3rd or 4th grade, but when he moves to a new school, his growth accelerates. It still isn’t enough to bring him to proficiency by 7th grade, but because he’s in a new school, his progress is projected out over four years (even if his new school doesn’t go up four more grades), and he’s deemed on-track to proficiency. His new school gets full credit towards AYP for him.

Meanwhile, for high schools, students who entered with level 1 or low level 2 scores would be counted as on-track to proficiency if they score between 55 and 64 on the Regents exams before grade 12. This is an interim model since scores of 55-64 are being phased out for graduation eligibility. In addition, high schools will have an additional year to help certain subgroups of students, including some English Language Learners and students with special needs, to reach proficiency.

More to come on the “plus” part of New York’s “proficiency plus” proposal.