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Academic Growth

Student academic achievement reported in the form of a test score or letter grade conveys what students know and are able to do at a certain point in time. However, student academic achievement measured at one point in time does not reveal a student’s academic growth. When a student’s score is viewed in isolation it can’t tell you if that student has made relatively normal progress, a huge leap forward, or lost ground. By looking at students’ academic growth, schools and districts can visualize their students’ progress data and learn more about their impact on student learning. By combining achievement and academic growth we gain information that helps us better ensure that every child is a graduate ready for college and career.

All growth data need to be examined in context of other data sources and should not be used in isolation. Examining other types of evidence of students’ skills and knowledge is needed to evaluate and refine initial hypotheses. Other types of evidence should come from a variety of sources - formative, interim, and summative data should be used in concert - and may include classroom projects, lab reports, journals, unit tests, homework, and teacher observations.

Types of Academic Growth

Academic growth is the measure of a student’s progress between two points in time. Methods of measuring growth range from subtracting last year’s test score from this year’s test score to complex statistical models that account for differences in student academic and background characteristics. Different methods of calculating growth help answer different questions. For this reason DPI uses three different models to report on growth:

  1. Student Growth Percentiles (SGP)
  2. Value-Added Models (VAM)
  3. Gain Scores

Below are descriptions of these models and examples of questions the models are designed to answer.


Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) compare a student’s growth to the growth made by students with similar score histories.

SGP Example Questions: Is one student’s academic growth what we expect compared to his or her peers? Is this student growing at a rate to become proficient by next year?

Sample student growth report

SGP Reports: click here to access SGP data (for Authorized Users only)

SGP Resources:


Value-Added Models (VAM) measure change in students' performance over a period of time. In particular, VAMs try to pinpoint how much a particular instructional resource--such as a school, teacher, or education program--contributed to that change. This measure takes into consideration variables that are out of the control of the school or teacher, such as family income or a student’s race.

VAM Example Questions: How effective is this school’s reading program in improving reading scores? How does the value added by schools in my district compare to other districts’ schools? 

Example Value-Added School Summary Report Visualization

Value-Added Reports: click here to access VAM Reports (for Authorized Users only)

Note: Due to the prior state testing schedule being in the Fall, value-added reports are grouped by the prior academic year. For example, reports published in Spring 2013 are based on the Fall 2011 (2011-12 school year) to Fall 2012 (2012-13 school year) WKCE and are therefore grouped under "2011-12", the academic year in which most of the measured growth occurred.

Available Resources:
The Value-Added Research Center at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, which has a long history of working with educators in Wisconsin and around the nation, works with DPI to provide value-added data. They have a number of valuable resources to help educators understand value-added scores.


Gain Scores document the change in a student’s score from one test administration to the next.

Gain Score Model Example Questions: How did student achievement change from one year to the next? How did the change in the performance of one student group compare to other groups?

Access Data for Gain Scores:
Use in Accountability

Academic Growth is used in Wisconsin’s Accountability System. From 2011-12 to 2013-14 Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) were used in the Student Growth Priority Area in the School Report Cards and District Report Cards. SGPs were used to establish target growth trajectories to determine whether students are “on track” to move up or down one or more proficiency levels within a set period of time. Schools and districts gained points for students who were on track to move up, and lost points for students who were on track to move down to below Proficient.

Starting with the 2015-16 School and District Report Cards, the growth priority area is a school-wide or district-wide growth measure based on value-added scores. Please note that SGP reports will continue to be available to authorized users in WISEdash for Districts.

Use in Educator Effectiveness

Educators may choose to use any of the growth data available to them (SGPs, value-added, gain scores) if they wish to do so in developing their SLO for Educator Effectiveness. For more information on the use of student growth data within the Educator Effectiveness System, please visit the Guidance in Creating Outcomes Summary Scores.



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