The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers union, has said they “welcome public accountability” but prefer it to be based on growth models that “acknowledge the progress that students make over time and recognize significant academic gains.” Nothing to quibble with there, except that the NEA has recently released its proposal for reauthorizing the federal accountability law (h/t Sawchuk), and it would literally make measuring student growth impossible. According to their proposal, states would be required to test students only twice, once in grades 4-6 and once in 7-9. They could, at their discretion, choose to test students once more in grades 10-12. States would no longer be required to measure Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and that’s fair, because the NEA’s rule would make this calculation impossible.
“Growth,” by definition, means you have to measure a starting and an ending place. Our current value-added models are still weaker than we’d like because they don’t have enough information about where a student starts and how they progress over time. Growth doesn’t mean much if it’s over a very long period of time, and, in the case of educational growth, it would be very hard to pin down the causes of growth between a student’s fourth and ninth grade years. Maybe that’s the NEA’s real intent, but they shouldn’t go around saying they’re for growth if they’re also for removing all the necessary elements to measuring it.