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SLU's PRiME Center Urges Missouri Educators to Focus on Student Growth in New Report

by Sarah Potter on 10/14/2021

St. Louis, Mo. – The Policy Research in Missouri Education (PRiME) Center at Saint Louis University issued its first Missouri Statewide Student Growth report on October 14, 2021, highlighting the top schools for student growth across Missouri.

Teacher reading to students

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

The researchers created a new PRiME Growth Score based on the state’s growth measure with an expanded scale that more closely mirrors school grades. The effort is aimed at making growth scores easier to understand for educators, policymakers and parents.

“Our main objective with this report is to help educational leaders use the growth data to identify the schools and educators who are excelling at moving student learning forward,” says Gary Ritter, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education at SLU and faculty director of the PRiME Center.  

The Missouri Statewide Student Growth report names the top 20 schools for student growth in three categories—elementary schools, eleMiddle schools and middle schools—for both English language arts (ELA) and math. The report uses 2019 state growth data, based on annual student growth over a three-year period, because these data represent the most recent stable school assessment data before schools adjusted learning modes for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report also shows the top 20 schools statewide that are leading in student growth for subgroup achievement in ELA and math. The subgroup category is a classification from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that includes historically underserved student populations, including students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, Black and Hispanic students, English language learners and students with disabilities. 

PRiME researchers are eager to highlight schools and educators doing an outstanding job teaching students in these traditionally under-served groups. This is the type of work needed to address persistent achievement gaps in Missouri, says Ritter.

“We know there are schools across Missouri that can serve as models for how to close the achievement and opportunity gaps among our most underserved students,” says Ritter. 

For educators and policymakers to understand school effectiveness, PRiME researchers assert that a measure of progress over time—known as a student growth measure—is more helpful than just proficiency measures alone. Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests show which students are learning on grade level through achieving proficiency or scoring proficient or advanced on assessments. These results, from a single point-in-time measure of student achievement, simply do not tell the whole story of school performance.

Notably, the Missouri Statewide Student Growth report demonstrates that schools earning high PRiME Growth Scores run the gamut—from large schools to small, from schools with students at high or low levels of proficiency, and schools from all corners of the state. The report shows that schools typically seen as “low-performing” based on proficiency rates are often showing excellent academic growth.

PRiME’s goal with this report is for policymakers, educators, and parents to understand the progress students and schools are making from year to year. The researchers say that is why they used a scale that looks more like traditional school grading. That is, growth scores in the high 90s are very good, 85 is the mean, and scores in the low 70s are quite low. 

This new PRiME Growth Score aims to make the scores more familiar, and thus more understandable, to education stakeholders. This transformation of scores does not alter the growth scores provided by DESE. Instead, it places the same figures on a scale that widens the distribution and is more like a percentage scale that one might see on a report card.

To read the full report and find PRiME Growth Scores for particular schools, go to www.sluprime.org/education-reports and read other PRiME publications at www.sluprime.org. To learn more about the Missouri Growth Model that the PRiME Growth Score is based on, read PRiME’s “Unpacking the Missouri Growth Score” policy brief. 

About SLU’s PRiME Center 

The PRiME (Policy Research in Missouri Education) Center was established in 2019 as an independent research center housed in the Saint Louis University School of Education. PRiME’s mission is to provide better evidence on education issues that can support better policies and lead to better outcomes for students and schools in Missouri. The center specializes in generating, collecting and disseminating education policy research in Missouri through blog posts, policy briefs and education reports. Learn more about PRiME’s work at www.sluprime.org