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Questions on Study Findings

September 7, 2009

Last week in an Op Ed piece in the New York Times, Tom Loveless, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies and Michael J. Petrilli, Vice President for National Programs and Policy, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute published “Smart Child Left Behind” – a timely and cogent article refuting the conclusions made by the Center on Education Policy that high achieving students are performing well enough under NCLB. If you haven’t already read it I would encourage you to do so and to keep it bookmarked for future reference the next time you need to advocate for a high ability child who is underachieving.

Keep in mind that just because a child is scoring “Advance Proficient” in one area or another does not mean that they are growing academically at the same rate as other children – particularly if they started off the year as “Advance Proficient” to begin with. As the article authors state: “high achievers usually work above grade level, so the state tests are very poor instruments for measuring how well top students are learning.”

A better instrument (in my opinion) for measuring how well top students are learning is the Value Added Assessment (VAA). Done properly, the VAA tests a student at the beginning of the year and again with a similar test* at the end of the year to determine the academic growth of that particular student. That data is then separated into student populations so that high ability student growth can be easily monitored. If a high ability student starts off the year at an “Advanced Proficient” level – then not much progress has been made. And if the student’s achievement scores fall from year to year that is a firm indicator that the student has disengaged from learning.

Under the High Ability “Advocacy” tab you will find some information about which test scores you will want to have on hand when advocating for a high ability child.

* Some measures of VAA use a nationally normed test at the beginning of the year compared to a state test at the end of the year – assuming that the nationally normed test is a more rigorous measure most students would “improve” by the end of the year given the less rigorous test in comparison. Make sure your VAA uses an apples-to-apples test.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. atxteacher permalink
    September 8, 2009 3:36 pm

    Finding good VAA measures is tricky. Since gifted kids are identified as such by scoring at the top of a nationally normed test, it requires some sort of out-of-level testing, or an adaptive measure with a high ceiling.

    We’re playing with Scantron’s Ed Peformance series as a possibility of measuring the growth of elementary gifted students. Any thoughts?

  2. September 8, 2009 3:53 pm

    As long as the identification instrument used is an ability test and the district has no problem disaggregating the data into the different student populations it shouldn’t be difficult to track the data for the quintile brackets for each grade level. Simply test the students using a similar test at the beginning of the year and again at the end of the year. VAA has been used in the past to prove one year’s academic growth for students performing below grade level – is it such a stretch to use for students performing above it?

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