There is a new education fad coming to some Kansas classrooms. There was cooperative learning in 1996, outcomes-based education in 2000, then standardized education and No Child Left Behind. Many teachers and administrators are now facing the launch of the newest cure-all: “growth model” or “value added” education.
The basis for this education fad is not science-based research or proven practice. The movement is a knee-jerk response to the unreasonable requirements of No Child Left Behind. NCLB imposes an impossible requirement on schools: that by 2014, all schoolchildren will achieve proficiency level. This NCLB requirement is measured by whole-school data.
But every teacher and administrator knows the 2014 requirement is unreasonable and unattainable. Some students lack the ability or motivation to achieve proficiency. There is also the influx of students who speak little English. As a result, many school administrators have lobbied for “growth model” to prevent the increased diversion of resources for a proficiency goal that cannot be achieved.
This political response revives an old education school reform from the early 1970s: individualized instruction. By various means, each student’s progress will be measured and teachers and schools will have to raise each student’s performance by one school year. Although a student may not reach proficiency, if the student makes one year of progress, this prevents the school from being penalized for not making “adequate yearly progress” (AYP).
Utah has already adopted a “growth model” statewide, and asked the U.S. Department of Education to accept it instead of the 100%-proficient-by-2014 rule. The Feds recently rejected the plan. But states have not given up. And several Kansas State Board members remain enthusiastic over “growth model.”
So what could be wrong with “growth model” or “value added” education?
Any teacher who survived the early 1970s individualized education era can tell you the heavy work load involved in documenting individual student progress on a day-by-day basis. While teachers are already overburdened trying to get a whole class to perform well on one set of standardized tests, they would be faced with the heavier burden of tracking each student’s variable progress—all tests, all the time.
The one survivor of the earlier individualized education reform was the “IEP” or individualized education plan for special education students. Under “growth model,” teachers could be faced with developing IEPs for every student. Lesson plans based on the proven efficiency of teaching students in groups would have to be abandoned. With every student on a different IEP, teaching becomes a matter of “herding cats.”
The extra work of “growth model” does not guarantee better student performance. If implemented, it will guarantee that even more veteran teachers will leave the classroom.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia.