Currently, statewide student assessments in Tennessee focus solely on proficiency, as opposed to growth. This can be an issue, especially when the student who is being assessed by the proficiency test comes from an economically disadvantaged situation. In Nashville, most of the students are economically disadvantaged, so growth tests are more useful for measuring progress. Statistically, many more disadvantaged students are behind their richer counterparts in terms of proficiency, and they never end up catching up.
The new test for measuring growth is called the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). These assessments are used in more than 7,400 schools across the country. They’re useful because they provide information on how much a student’s proficiency has increased, as opposed to just telling instructors and parents whether the student is at grade level. These scores, which are alternately called growth and value-added scores, were implemented in the Metro Nashville Public Schools in 2016.
Rocketship Public Schools, however, have been using this measure of growth since the opening of their first school in 2006. Rocketship Education is a non-profit network of public charter schools, many of which are located in Nashville, TN. At Rocketship United Academy, one of three of Rocketship’s public charters in Metro Nashville-Davidson County, 70 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. The achievement gap, however, is closing. In 2016, 146 students in the school network started the year behind their peers and ended the year either at or above grade level. The average growth rate for math for the students at this school was 1.35 years, and the corresponding average for reading was 1.2 years.
Rocketship Public Schools started in Redwood City, California, and they now serve 15,000 students nationwide, at schools based in the Bay Area of California, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Washington DC. The school network focuses on personalizing learning to each individual student, often including group tutoring, and uses E-learning. They recently earned $100,000 in a grant from the Peery Foundation in 2012. One of their three pillars is involving parents in their children’s’ education. The schools use four different content blocks per day: Humanities, STEM, Learning Lab and Enrichment.