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Originally published Monday, June 10, 2013 at 9:05 AM

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Editorial: Accountability-system changes should aid schools, students

Washington’s new schools-accountability system will help improve by better tracking the complexities of teaching and learning.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE state Board of Education is wisely revising its school-accountability system to better convey not just if students are learning, but how much and how quickly.

Education is complex. Broadening the state Public School Achievement Index to include how much students grow in an academic year acknowledges the complexities of teaching and learning.

Confidence in the state index is important. It is replacing the federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress as Washington’s sole accountability system.

The proposed changes will not let schools off the hook, as some have suggested. Schools will still be held accountable for getting every student to grade level. But broader insight into how swiftly, or slowly, students excel is information that can guide interventions and remediation efforts.

Measuring academic growth provides a window into what high-performing schools are doing as well as others are struggling.

Part of measuring school performance is understanding the subtleties of student progress. For example, take any two schools with similar percentages of students performing academically on grade level. In one school, students started out working one, two, even three grade levels behind. Their current at-grade-level performance underscores hard work and tremendous progress. That’s the good news.

At the second school, students started out at grade level and have remained there. That’s unremarkable. A good education moves all students beyond their starting point. For high-performing students, they should perform at even higher levels over time.

The state’s accountability-index changes will help get us there.

It is crucial to get this right. The state index is not just about rating schools, but using the information to craft targeted supports. That kind of efficiency saves money over time.

Prioritizing academic growth does not have to come at the expense of expectations that every student meets standards. Both goals are needed. All students must eventually be proficient in every subject level and graduate from high school prepared for college or career training.

Another benefit: Measuring not just whether the students learned anything, but how swiftly and how much, offers an important gauge of teacher effectiveness.

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