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New State Accountability System - School Progress Indexes Released

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Maryland State Department of Education today released School Progress Index results for each school in the state.  These Indexes are used to sort schools into five Strands.  Together, the Indexes and Strands form Maryland's new accountability system, which replaces the Adequate Yearly Progress system required by No Child Left Behind. 

The state department describes the new system as follows, "Under this new system, Maryland has adopted a realistic and achievable goal of cutting in half the number of students in each school who are not achieving at the proficient level by 2017, with annual improvement targets set for every school and every subgroup individually. "In addition to achievement and growth, the system focuses strongly on new measures of a school's ability to close gaps between its highest performing student groups and its lowest, and for high schools to graduate students on time and College- and Career-Ready."

"This year represents a transition year for our schools as we move from one accountability model to another," Jack Smith, Superintendent of Calvert County Public Schools, said.  "A profound number of calculations are used to establish each School Progress Index (SPI).  In the coming months, principals and other administrators will be closely examining the data that underlie the School Progress Indexes for each school so we can use what they tell us to improve student learning."

The School Progress Index is composed of multiple measures, which the state department calls Indicators.  These Indicators include overall student performance, student growth, the degree to which a school is closing achievement gaps between its highest and lowest performing student groups, and preparation for college and careers. 

Once the state department calculates a School Progress Index (SPI) for each school, it assigns the school to a Strand.  The department describes a Strand 1 school as one which has an SPI of 1.0 or greater and met all three annual Indicator Targets.  A Strand 5 school has an SPI of less than 0.9, and it could have met from zero to two annual Indicator Targets.

"I am concerned that we are taking a school, which is a complex and dynamic organization, and reducing its perceived effectiveness to one number," Dr. Smith said.  "And since this is a new, but very complicated accountability system, we do not know how variable and unstable these Strand assignments might be from year-to-year.  Adequate Yearly Progress measured incremental change, but these new numbers assigned to our schools have the potential to fluctuate widely from year-to-year.  This will be confusing to us as well as to our community."

For elementary and middle schools, student achievement will continue to be measured through the reading, mathematics and science Maryland School Assessments.  For high schools, student achievement will be measured through the Algebra/Data Analysis, English and Biology High School Assessments.  In each case, the three tests will be weighted equally.  According to the state department, "The Achievement Indicator asks whether the school made enough progress this year to be on target to achieve its 2017 goals for English/Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science."  At the elementary and middle school levels, achievement is 30% of the School Progress Index; for high schools it is 40% of the School Progress Index.

The Student Growth component of the Index focuses on whether students in an elementary or middle school made one year's progress in both reading and mathematics.  Growth is 30% of the School Progress Index.

"The Gap Reduction Indicator looks at the gap between the highest and lowest performing subgroups at a school," according to the state department.  These highest and lowest performing groups, which include students in various racial groups, economically disadvantaged students, students with educational disabilities, and English Language Learners, can vary from year-to-year in relation to gap reduction. This indicator is 40% of the overall School Progress Index.

At the high school level, College-and-Career Readiness is measured by the cohort graduation rate and other measures the ensure students are prepared for life after graduation.  This is 20% of the high School Progress Index.

Information about each school in Maryland is posted on the Maryland Report Card website.

In the following publications, the Maryland State Department of Education explains the new accountability system in more depth.

Press Release: Maryland Releases First School Progress Index Data