Why a Focus on Academic Growth Is Good for Educators and Students

April 19, 2017

Why a Focus on Academic Growth Is Good for Educators and Students

By NIET Chief Policy Officer Kristan Van Hook

Brandon Wright of the Fordham Institute recently praised the "State Plan Peer Review Criteria" released by the U.S. Department of Education, which explains how state ESSA plans will be reviewed for approval or rejection. Wright notes, "The regulations permit accountability systems that measure student achievement at multiple levels—not just "proficient"—using a performance index."

This flexibility for states to focus on growth is good news not just for students but for educators as well. Why? One big reason is that educators who work with students that begin the school year well below proficiency will finally be recognized for the growth they are able to achieve over the course of that year. If they can help students to make more than a year of academic growth, thus closing the gap toward proficiency, they will be recognized for this success.

Why is this important? Ask a teacher who has helped a student to make two full years of academic progress in a single calendar year, yet failed to be recognized for this achievement under prior accountability systems. Recognition matters. And we need to start recognizing educators' achievements in supporting above average student academic growth if we expect to see students reach proficiency.

Recognizing teachers who enable students to make more rapid academic growth than expected is a victory for high-achieving teachers.