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Academic Growth

Why measure student 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. It is important to understand student learning relative to academic standards. 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 compared to earlier points in time. Studying and monitoring students’ progress data helps educators learn more about their impact on student learning. Further, by combining achievement and growth educators have a more complete picture of student learning and are better able to ensure that every child is a graduate ready for college and career.

How is growth measured?

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 (called a gain score) to complex statistical models that account for differences in student academic and demographic characteristics.

How is growth data used in accountability?

Academic Growth is used in Wisconsin’s Accountability System. In the accountability report cards that are at the center of the state accountability system, a value-added model (VAM) is used. In federal accountability, Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) will be used when reporting begins in the 2018-19 school year.

State Accountability

From 2011-12 to 2013-14 SGPs were used in the Student Growth Priority Area in the School Report Cards and District Report Cards. 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. The change in measure was legislated in the 2015-17 biennial budget.

Value-added is a growth model that measures change in students' performance over a period of time while taking into consideration variables that are out of the control of the school or teacher, such as family income or a student’s race. In particular, VAMs try to pinpoint how much a particular instructional resource--such as a school, teacher, or education program--contributed to the change in student performance. For more information about value-added, please see our resource page:

Federal Accountability

Starting in 2018-19, reporting under the federal accountability system required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, the reauthorized federal education law, will include a measure of student growth. SGPs will be used to compute school and subgroup growth scores. SGPs compare a student’s growth to the growth made by students with similar score histories.

How else is growth data used?

Educators use evidence of their students’ progress every day, in formal and informal ways. Some may choose to use growth data (SGPs, value-added, gain scores) when developing their Student/School Learning Objective (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.

Educators also use growth data to examine trends among their student population, grade levels, and content areas. Growth data can be an important piece of the data puzzle that aids instructional and local programmatic decisions. For growth data on individual students, grade levels, schools or districts, educators can access the SGP reports in WISEdash for Districts (authorized users only). Two resources are available to educators looking to understand their SGP data:

For more information on the SGP data in WISEdash for Districts, please see the accompanying About the Data page. 

Just as achievement data should not be used alone, all growth data need to be examined in context of other data sources and should not be used in isolation. Examine other types of evidence of students’ skills and knowledge to better understand student learning. 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.