Georgia places significant emphasis on academic progress, but the state’s way of measuring proficiency and growth may not ensure that all students reach college and career readiness.
Georgia will weight progress in elementary and middle schools at 35 percent, which is greater weight than the content mastery indicator receives at 30 percent. This creates a strong incentive for schools to focus on both growth and proficiency. However, the state’s way of measuring proficiency and growth may not be strong enough to ensure that all students get the content they need to reach college- and career-ready standards.
At the high school level, progress and content mastery are weighted equally at 30 percent each. But since the state’s content mastery measure comprises four subjects, achievement in any one subject (such as English or math) accounts for very little of a school’s rating.
The state’s achievement measure will award points to schools based on student performance across multiple levels of performance.
Rather than grading schools by a percentage of students reaching proficiency, Georgia will award points ranging from 0 to 1.5 based on students’ achievement level: 0 points for beginning learners, 0.5 points for developing learners, 1 point for proficient learners, and 1.5 points for distinguished learners.
While Georgia deserves credit for seeking to reward performance at different levels, the system as proposed does not give any extra emphasis on students reaching grade-level standards, and it appears to give disproportionate weight to the advanced level.
Consider two schools, one where half of its students score “developing” and the other score “advanced,” and another school in which all students score “proficient.” Under Georgia’s rating system, both schools would receive exactly the same amount of points despite very different performance distributions. While tracking the progress of advanced students is important, doing so cannot mask the performance of non-proficient students.
Georgia’s academic progress is measured by student growth percentiles (SGP), which does not ensure students cover the content they need be college and career ready
This approach compares the progress students make in English language arts and mathematics against their similarly performing peers and converts those scores into percentiles. While this approach is relatively simple to calculate and interpret, it does not ensure students cover the content they need to master to stay on track toward mastery at graduation. This issue is of particular concern given that the state’s chosen achievement measure also does not focus on students reaching grade-level expectations.
Georgia’s accountability system uses a set of performance bands that sets a low bar for achievement.
Students scoring at the first through 29th percentile earn 0 points, the 30th through 40th percentile earn 0.5 points, and students earn full credit for reaching the 41st percentile (that is, students earn full credit even for making below-average growth). This is a low bar, and it’s especially concerning given that the calculation does not take into account whether or not a student is making adequate growth to become proficient or advanced, or to remain at those levels over time.
The state also includes progress toward English language proficiency (ELP) in its progress indicator.
Schools are awarded points for students meeting different performance levels. Students making no progress toward proficiency earn 0 points, those making progress but not moving performance bands earn 0.5 points, and those moving one band earn 1 point. A student is awarded 1.5 points for moving greater than one band.
The bands are “wider” at lower levels of English proficiency, which is consistent with research that says that students make faster progress when they are first starting to learn English, compared to when they are reaching English proficiency. However, this indicator only accounts for 3.5 percent of a school’s score. Given its relatively large English learner population, Georgia may want to consider increasing that weight.