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How are our schools performing? The Academic Performance Framework answers that question

How are our schools performing? Great question. It’s a complicated answer. “There’s no single number that can capture everything of value that occurs in schools,” said Dr. Paul Changas, executive director of research, assessment and evaluation for Metro Schools. "But we also know there is a tremendous amount of data and information that we have on our schools. We do try to combine several key measures of academic performance and school culture to try to get an overall picture of school performance.”

Changas and his team recently finished the latest update to the Academic Performance Framework (APF) - a complex grid of information that takes into account school assessments, demographics, and other statistical information. The APF doesn't just look at raw achievement scores the way most accountability systems do. Instead, puts a strong emphasis on growth, along with school culture and college readiness.

It is meant to be a complete view of how a school performs, not just a snapshot of what one test says about student learning. Based on these multiple sources of data, schools are given one of five possible color-coded ratings:

  • Target (red)
  • Review (yellow)
  • Satisfactory (white)
  • Achieving (light green)
  • Excelling (dark green)

Take a look at what is counted and how much weight it is given in a school's rating.

APF Components and Weights

By giving so much weight to "academic progress," schools can be measured on a level playing field where outside factors such as student poverty have less of a bearing on the overall rating.

"It’s true every year and we look at it every year, when we look at the relationship between economic disadvantage – the percent of students in a school who are economically disadvantaged – and the overall measures on our academic performance framework, we find virtually no correlation between the two when we look at growth measures," Changas added. That means that despite the achievement barriers of poverty and economic disadvantage, students in Metro Schools are still able to move the needle on achievement in a positive direction.

“We want all of our students to move upward in terms of achievement,” Changas said. “… And part of the purpose of the framework was to identify those schools that can be models for other schools,” Changas said.

But what do we do with the APF? How is it used to inform the direction we go? We spoke with a few principals to give you some insight.

At Neely's Bend Elementary School, the APF was used to take a deep dive into what practices were affecting performance, giving Principal Donna Poag more resolve to push harder and step up efforts.

"When you dive into the data you have to dive in with the attitude of, 'What can we do that we have control of?'" Poag said, referring to the schools high economically disadvantaged and English language learner populations - populations that research shows may experience achievement challenges for a variety of reasons. Poag sees her role as someone to motivate and coach her teachers.

"Talking the talk is one thing, walking the walk is another thing, but that is where we're headed," Poag said.

Neely's Bend is one of the elementary schools that saw their school performance data drop from last year. Poag says the school looked at what they did in the year prior which showed higher scores that were sustained from the previous year. That's when they discovered that one of the things that worked well was more interventions for reading and math, giving students more opportunities to relearn lessons they may have not learned the first time.

"We looked at how we could teach the standards more often, and do an assessment then reteach it some more," Poag said.

"There were conversations about more small group work. The 2nd grade performed better than 4th grade, and they do more small group work in 2nd grade," Poag explained. "You have to work hard with the things that are effective. Its not about just working hard  - it is adding some things and eliminating others."

Linda Mickle, principal of Crieve Hall Elementary School said the data can be very overwhelming, since it not only gives a picture of a school's overall proficiency level but gives data that pinpoints where children are in their learning progress, informing teachers on how to meet children where they are with instruction. Crieve Hall Elementary School had a status of "excelling" this year.

"The Academic Performance Framework just encourages really good practices that we do in the classroom. We really talk about the standards as they are written and make sure we really know them backward and forward," Mickle said.

Mickle said its important to have weekly meetings with teachers on the activities they plan around the learning standards and how they are used to support intervention, all while getting the data in front of the teachers and identifying what is being done well.

"It's a delicate balance that we as a school always have to maintain," Mickle said.

Overall, the teaching profession is more data-driven now than ever, according to Mickle, which is a good thing to her.

"Those of us who taught 30 years ago - we had no data. So knowing where each child is individually and knowing where to move that child is very important. We do take the data and try to do that," Mickle said. "All of us, metro wide, we just have to keep those standards in front and make sure everything we do is doing what is best for kids."

"We look at the data in data meetings and with the school leadership team, and look each year where we are and get a good handle on the overall performance on our students. Those numbers can go up and down - we never take that for granted," Mickle said.

Dr. Vanessa Garcia, executive officer for elementary schools said to the Board of Education that her team works to provide more accessibility and community among principals about the best practices to take back to their building.

The academic performance framework data is used as one of the factors in identifying principal leadership, budgeting, and targeting resources. "It provides a lot of trend data for us when we have to determine principal effectiveness," Garcia said. "Overall, we’re just constantly talking about continuous improvement, and it guides our discussions with that."

View the full presentation on the APF below:


[slideshare id=54711602&doc=mnpsapf2015schoolboard-151103231501-lva1-app6892]