Parents now can compare child's progress to others

Growth model adds to school districts' evaluation tools, superintendents say


At a glance

Below are the basic points of the Colorado Growth Model, a new method for tracking student achievement and skill development. Learn more about the new system at

- The model shows how individual students and groups of students progress from year to year toward state standards. Each student's progress is compared to the progress of other students in the state with a similar score history (based on the state's unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient or advance score categories) on Colorado Student Assessment Program tests in that subject area. That progress is measured by using all available test scores for each student.

- The model also shows which schools and districts show the highest sustained growth from year to year. Those schools may not be the ones with the highest test scores each year.

- A median growth percentile summarizes student growth rates by district, school, grade level or other group of interest. Typical median growth for the state is 50.

- For individual student growth, students with typical growth fall in the 35th to 65th percentile. Students with scores below the 35th percentile are considered to have low growth, and students above the 65th percentile are considered to have high growth.

- The Growth Model assigns each student to one of three categories describing future growth. Students who are "catching up" have scored in unsatisfactory or partially proficient categories in the past and are expected to reach proficiency within three years or by the 10th grade. Students who are "keeping up" have scored in the proficient or advanced categories in the past and have shown growth to continue those scores for three years or through 10th grade. Students who are "moving up" have scored in the proficient category in the past and have shown enough growth to move into the advanced category within three years or by the 10th grade.

Source: Colorado Department of Education,

— As a parent, imagine being able to see a report that details your child's yearly progress throughout his or her education. Now imagine comparing that information to other students in your child's school and to other students throughout Colorado.

You don't have to imagine anymore.

With the Colorado Growth Model, a new evaluation tool the state Department of Education unveiled Aug. 7, parents can do just that.

The growth model answers questions including: What is the growth rate of a student? What should the growth rate be for a student to reach a certain level of achievement in a certain period of time? And what are the highest sustained growth rates and under what conditions could they improve?

Rich Wenning, associate commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education, said its purpose is to define students' growth and whether that's good enough. And it evaluates students, groups, schools, districts and the state, he said.

The growth model was mandated by Senate Bill 163, which was approved during the last session of the Colorado Legislature. But its development began four years ago, Wenning said.

Using scores from the Colorado Standard Assessment Program, which tests students annually in reading, writing and math from third through 10th grade and in science during fifth, eighth and 10th grades, a growth percentile from 1 to 99 is provided for each student, relative to students at the same starting point.

The growth model determines whether a student needs to "catch up" to reach proficiency, "move up" from a proficient to an advanced level, or whether he or she can "keep up" to continue performing at a proficient or advanced level.

From there, Wenning said, it can be determined what resources to dedicate to which students to maximize a child's progress toward the goal of getting all Colorado students to proficient levels in those subjects by the 10th grade.

"Ultimately, this is a signaling device," Wenning said. "It is basic information needed to plan for improvement."

In the past, CSAP results told schools what percentage of students performed at a proficient and advanced level each year. Wenning said there was no way for students to be compared to one another or for students or groups to evaluate their progress against one another.

Superintendents of Routt County school districts said the new growth model will be added to their arsenal of evaluating student growth and achievement.

"We have a myriad of assessments we do individually in classrooms, at school sites and district-wide," Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said. "The Colorado Growth Model drills down and gives us improved information."

She said that information could be used to evaluate which students are progressing and which ones need extra help. She said it could be used to evaluate certain groups. And, Cunningham said, the growth model will be a wonderful tool during conferences for parents to review with teachers how students are progressing yearly, based on state standards.

"We think that's the most powerful aspect of this," said Wenning, who added that a students' complete Colorado achievement history is available in a report, regardless of whether the student has switched districts.

Wenning said schools would have special access to review that online information with parents.

"With the new CDE evaluation Web site, we'll be able to pinpoint our strategies and weaknesses and focus in on those weaknesses to correct them," said Hayden Superintendent Greg Rockhold.

Rockhold said Hayden will combine the growth model with new testing software it will begin using this year to evaluate student growth and achievement.

The growth model also eliminates rating systems for schools, but SB 163 will establish a new set of criteria for schools' achievement levels that likely won't be determined until next fall, Wenning said.

To learn more about the Colorado Growth Model, visit


bandmama 7 years, 8 months ago

Oh my. What happened to "Johnny is getting an A, he is doing well, and Billy has his finger stuck in his nose and is getting an F, Billy may need some help in general, Johnny may need asssistance in further education" I do agree that our schools should be monitored to be sure that they are keeping up with Fed/State expectations, but I personally dont see the need to compare my childs progress with other students. Each student is an individual and learns differently. Progress for our students are already monitored by so many other tests/reports. Why is this needed and how much is it costing the schools? By constantly comparing with the same pool, how is this to promote growth? Just curious. Thanks.


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