Shoreline School Board Report: Washington Achievement Index explained

Saturday, June 4, 2016

By Marianne Deal Stephens

On May 9, 2016, Shoreline Director of Assessment and Student Learning Dr. Michael Power presented the data behind the Washington Achievement Index Awards presented by Washington State. (See April 2016 District Press Release).

Several Shoreline Schools won awards, a few in multiple categories: Briarcrest Elementary, Brookside Elementary, Cascade K-8, Echo Lake Elementary, Melvin G. Syre Elementary, Meridian Park Elementary, and Parkwood Elementary.
Source: Shoreline School District 
Dr. Power offered a brief overview of the origin of the Washington Achievement Index. As state assessments have changed, the ability to measure students over time has been lost. The State Board of Education and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction developed the Achievement Index to “make sure that schools are making progress.” The index “is a snapshot of a school’s performance based on statewide assessments” comparing “how a school performs in reading, writing, math, science, and graduation rates.” The State not only tracks overall performance; by closely tracking every student, the State aims to help districts identify and close achievement gaps and to show how well low income and non-low income students perform.

When explaining how factors are weighted in the index, Dr. Power noted that the data behind the index is “massive” and “it is difficult to identify what made the difference at a certain school.” The index weights growth (60%) over proficiency (40%). Schools must have 95% participation rate in state assessments; when they do not, absent students receive zeroes, which negatively affect average scores.

[Learn more about the indicators and categories of the Achievement Index on pages 2-8 of Dr. Power’s Report.]

The seven award-winning Shoreline Schools are high performers based on three years of academic information as measured by the index. The State notes that “Award recipients are schools that have made measurable progress helping students prepare for college, career, and life.”

One such school is Briarcrest Elementary, recognized for “High Progress.”

Source: Shoreline School District 

As Dr. Power has indicated on the bar graph, the highest yellow bar marked 9.3 is an average of data over the last three years. The red achievement index bars are roughly a weighted average of proficiency (purple bars) and growth (yellow bars). Other award winning schools show similar patterns of upticks in proficiency and/ or growth and the overall index.

Dr. Power displayed graphs of all Shoreline schools, whether or not they met the State criteria for Achievement Index awards in 2016. While some schools’ bar graphs show declines, Dr. Power cautioned against reading too much into those, saying that “the data are so complex that it is difficult to see what it [the factor that affected the measurement] was.”

Source: Shoreline School District 
However, he does have an explanation for the declines of the middle and high schools’ performance: “students who do not participate [in testing] receive a zero, so that brings the averages down…proficiency is a downward trend due to participation.”

The Shorecrest Proficiency indicator dropped from 8.5 to 4.9, while the graduation indicator increased. Our students are not less able; their non participation in state assessments skews the measurement.

Board Vice President Debi Ehrlichman mentioned that she is “pleased to see the spike in graduation” and acknowledged that, with the combination of factors, there is not one particular weighting factor to “hang your hat on.”

For full Shoreline results by school, see pages 10-24 of Dr. Power’s Washington Achievement Index Report.
For award criteria and a full list of state winners, see Washington Achievement Award.


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