Growth Vs. Proficiency – NC’s Toxic School Performance Grading System

Simply put, North Carolina should allow student growth to weigh more in the formula that measures school performance grades. (Honestly, we should get rid of it).

Last March, a bill passed the General Assembly House K-12 Education Committee that according to an EdNC.org report from Alex Granados “would change the calculation of the grades from 80 percent academic performance and 20 percent growth to a 50-50 split” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/03/15/house-committee-tackles-school-performance-grade-change/).

Granados explained,

“Academic performance is measured by students’ proficiency on statewide tests whereas academic growth is how much academic progress students make during the year.”

For those who suffer from Betsy DeVos’s “I Don’t Know The Difference Between Proficiency And Growth Syndrome,” that means more of an emphasis on whether students are growing from the beginning of the year to the end of the school year.

And this would have been a step in the right direction for a group of lawmakers who have shown to be less than proficient when it comes to helping public education.

Proficiency is measured by tests. And no, I am not advocating that we eliminate all tests, but when a state can administer tests that are constructed arbitrarily, many times graded by computer, converted by unknown algorithms, and mostly unexplained with ambiguous score reports, then feedback on improvement is almost nonexistent.

growth proficiency

Tweak an algorithm here and a cut score there and quite a number of school performance grades change. Proficiency becomes a luck of the draw. Growth then becomes less emphasized when growth is what we are after the whole time.

Athletes train to get better. Professionals work to get better. Skills are worked on to become sharper. They seek growth.

And to think that all of the students who walk in to a classroom come in at the same level is ludicrous. Too many factors affecting their academic performance outside of class weigh heavily on their achievement on the very items that lawmakers say measure “proficiency” – hunger, poverty, health, safety, emotional and mental health, the list goes on.

Ironically, lawmakers can do a lot more about those factors and actually ensure that there is more potential for growth in many of our students.

What lawmakers should maybe consider is that performance gets better when students grow. And if proficiency is measured by moving targets like standardized tests, then what is considered grade level can pretty much be summed up in the same manner.

Are those students growing? That’s the question.

If schools in this state which received “D’s” and “F’s” were growing students at great lengths but still were not at what are considered grade level, then I would consider those schools and teachers a success. Considering what factors they were against, what odds they faced, and what resources they had to gather on their own, they put students first. They saw progress and had faith in a process.

Where Raleigh has looked at a bottom line, those teachers saw real people.

The school performance grading system is flawed. It should be changed.

Better yet, it should be eliminated.