Before selecting a school for their child/children, parents carefully analyse every aspect of the potential school’s prospectus.
From hearsay to hard-hitting facts such as test scores and demographics, weighing up the pros and cons of each school is a natural part of the student enrollment process.
But has anyone ever presented parents with growth data?
What is growth data?
For those who are unsure about what growth data is and the role it plays in schools, in simple terms, it’s a measure of school effectiveness through the perspective of student progress.
Starting from the point of entry and carrying on through the school year, growth data keeps track of how much academic progress a pupil is making and concisely tracking it.
This data may be presented in a class format or segregated into individual pupil data – it’s up to the school how they wish to display it.
Maintaining a month-by-month update, growth data highlights the active role teachers play in measuring pupil data and how responsible the school is acting in correlation to student success.
When choosing school districts, parents have access to limited information. David Houston and @J_Henig find providing student GROWTH—and not ACHIEVEMENT—data can cause individuals to choose less white and less wealthy districts. Read this #EdWorkingPaper: https://t.co/4TqMishz2a pic.twitter.com/8uUEfX2Zbu
— Annenberg Institute at Brown (@AnnenbergInst) June 20, 2019
Published in June 2019, a research fellow at Harvard, David Houston, conducted an insightful online survey experiment alongside Jeffrey R. Henig from Columbia University.
Through this survey, participants are asked to imagine that their parents were looking to move to a new metropolitan area in the US.
Choosing between the five largest school districts in their selected area, they then received demographic data for each district. However, a few of them also received random average growth data for each district.
“Average student growth (i.e., the rate of improvement in students’ academic performance over time) offers two chief advantages over more traditional measures of average student achievement (i.e., student academic performance at a single point in time).
“First, student growth arguably provides a more accurate and useful – if still imperfect – indicator of schools’ and districts’ contributions to student learning. Second, compared to student achievement, student growth is less tied to the racial and socioeconomic composition of the student body,” Houston and Henig explain.
By solely focusing on growth data, parents aren’t as influenced by the school’s local reputation (good or bad), as well as its tuition fees, accreditations or the standard of faculty members.
Parents can use growth data to measure the commitment and consideration the school has for their students’ studies.
— Annenberg Institute at Brown (@AnnenbergInst) July 9, 2019
Advice for parents
Pairing prospective parents with a snapshot of the school selection process, Houston and Henig leave readers with a solid piece of advice:
“No single metric can capture all relevant aspects of a complex, multi-dimensional concept like educational quality. When making choices about which measurements to employ, which results to distribute, and which elements of those results to emphasise, educational institutions need to be aware of how these metrics can be shaped not only by variation in the relevant construct at the institutional levels – schools’ and districts’ effects on student outcomes – but also by systematic variation in the advantages and disadvantages experienced by the individuals who comprise those institutions.”
Therefore, growth data and other forms of student progress reports may not be 100 percent accurate or a fair representation of student performance.
While growth data might be a professional working mechanism for some educational institutions, for others, it will lead parents down a different trail.
We must remember that every learner is different; what works for some students in lessons may not work for others.
As such, maybe parents should be focused on the variation of learning techniques used by schools over the statistics printed on a growth data report.