The Ed Trust's Growth Model Strategy: Be In The Room

I was emailing back and forth with the EdTrust's policy god Ross Weiner earlier today about this whole growth model thing, which they're cautiously optimistic about (more about that below). At a certain point I realized that the Trust is, I think, basically making the call that they'd rather be in the room helping the process not be as bad as it could be rather than on the outside clamoring against it. It might be the right thing to do in the short term, but it's a messy, messy, high risk strategy if it doesn't work.


Weiner at the EdTrust tells me that the growth pilot could be OK: "There are legitimate reasons for examining how growth models work in comparison to the current AYP rules," he writes, without letting states using this as "an opportunity to shirk their responsibility for educating all kids."

OK, fine. But aren't the states all about the shirking? And hasn't the USDE of late been all about going along with the shirking? Sure, says Weiner, but it ... won't happen this time. "We know that states have not accepted this responsibility in the past, and we will be watching this process closely," he says, noting that the state applications are going to be made public and that EdTrust's Kati Haycock will be on the advisory board. (So will Bill Taylor of the CCCR, along with a bunch of state folks.)

As you may recall, Haycock responded cautiously to the original announcement:
“We had so-called growth models before NCLB, and they did little to drive reform or improvements for students. The question we can answer with a good pilot is whether a new generation of growth-based accountability systems will do more to drive the necessary changes in teaching and learning than the current model.”

Still, it seems awfully optimistic to me, given that, as Haycock herself points out, we've tried growth before and it didn't work, that the USDE doesn't have to release the applications (and hasn't yet, to my knowledge), and that the advisory board is just that: advisory.

That's where I come to the notion that it's a strategic call more than anything else. The Trust knows that it could go badly, and wants to help avoid that. It could stand on the sidelines and point out just how badly things are going. That's what I'd do. (Hell, that's what I'm doing.)

The upside, if it works, is that there's some next-generation model of measuring school performance that more folks agree is fair and accurate, and the world is a better place with less strife about school performance. Hard to imagine, but it could happen.

In the meantime, Ross gets the last word: "I think many states wanted a free for all and didn't get it. But that doesn't mean everything is taken care of, either. It will be interesting to see what states have proposed (I am sure some will be more responsible than others), what kind of public conversation takes place (will the sleeping giants out there wake up and push back on the states/systems that want to set lower expectations for their kids?), and what gets approved. There's a lot of issues on the table and a lot of implications, but I don't think any of it is cut and dry good or bad at this point."


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