Alternative Measures of Student Growth: What Can We Learn from Early Adopter Districts?

IES_NCESSchool districts across the country are incorporating measures of student achievement growth in teacher evaluations—but that’s a challenge in grades and subjects that lack standardized state assessments. In response, some districts have turned to alternative measures of student growth–that is, measures that rely on something other than state assessments in reading and math in grades 3–8.

What can we learn from school districts that have pioneered the use of these alternative measures?

A new study from Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic at ICFI looks at eight districts that have been using alternative measures for teacher evaluations or performance-related compensation systems. Four districts apply statistical value-added models (VAMs) to end-of-course and commercial assessments as well as state tests, and four use student learning objectives (SLOs) selected by teachers with the approval of their principals.

This study provides key pieces of information about the school districts’ experiences that can be used by other districts and states to decide whether and how to implement alternative assessment-based measures of student growth.

Key findings include:

•    Districts using SLOs chose them as a teacher-guided method of assessing student growth, while those using alternative assessment-based VAMs chose to take advantage of existing assessments.

•     SLOs can be used for teacher evaluation in any grade or subject but require substantial effort by teachers and principals, and ensuring consistency is challenging.

•    In the four SLO districts, SLOs are required of all teachers across grades K-12, regardless of whether the teachers serve grades or subjects that include district-wide standardized tests.

•    Alternative student assessments used by VAM districts differ by developer, alignment with specific courses, and coverage of grades and subjects.

•    VAMs applied to end-of-course and commercial assessments create consistent districtwide measures but generally require technical support from an outside provider.

A particularly important aspect of this report is that it evaluates both VAM and SLO models, side-by-side. While there are, of course, some aspects of each that are difficult to compare and contrast, the report will undoubtedly be useful to states and districts considering their options for Teacher and Principal Evaluation.

Read this report at: