A new ranking of metro areas showing each locality's educational effectiveness could be used to help school leaders find measures of academic success to replicate or reinforce as they seek to help students recover from the pandemic, according to the authors of an analysis by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The analysis ranks 100 large and mid-sized metro areas by their educational effectiveness using data based on academic growth for cohorts of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as other factors.
Students in the Miami; Memphis, Tennessee; and El Paso, Texas, metro areas made above-average pre-pandemic progress, while learners in Honolulu, Las Vegas and Tulsa, Oklahoma, made below-average progress, according to the analysis.
The report allows "local stakeholders to dig in and see what kind of sense they can make out of it, and what kind of stories that they can tell," said Adam Tyner, a researcher at the Fordham Institute.
Using data from the Stanford Education Data Archive and U.S. Department of Education high school graduation rates, the report's authors developed Student Learning Accelerating Metros (SLAM) rankings that give the most weight for academic growth to results from spring assessments in all grades from 2016, 2017 and 2018, with 2015 used as an additional baseline year.
Users can filter specific metrics by student subgroups, metro sizes, grade levels, and more. For example, although Honolulu is ranked last for academic growth for all students in the 50 largest metro areas, it is ranked No. 1 for academic growth of Black students. Miami is ranked first in academic growth for all students and Hispanic students, but 15th for Black students.
"Local administrators or business leaders may want to consider whether not only how is their metro doing, but are there some other metros similar to them that are out performing or underperforming them, and are there lessons that they can draw about what they can be doing?" Tyner said.
The SLAM rankings also include high school graduation rates. They do not include average academic achievement in math and English language arts in recent years, though that metric is available on the interactive website for users to explore.
Although the rankings focus on metro areas, an interactive map also allows users to view metrics of the largest school districts in each metro area.
By highlighting student growth over time, educators, community members and policymakers can see where schools are making a difference and the progress students are making, Tyner said.
While the review of multiple data points and timeframes can help educators better understand the effectiveness of initiatives or identify root causes of challenges, the growing sophistication of data collection and analytics is leading to a better understanding of students' academic progress over time, say education data experts.
A Dec. 3 report from St. Louis University’s Policy Research in Missouri Education Center, for example, features schools that are often overlooked when viewing more traditional achievement measurements but are showing fast rates of academic progress when growth metrics are used.
All but two states have measurements for student growth in their accountability systems for elementary and middle schools, and 20 states do this for high schools, according to a 2020 blog from the Data Quality Campaign written by Brennan McMahon Parton, vice president of policy and advocacy at DQC, and Chad Aldeman, who is now Policy Director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.
The cancellations of 2020 spring state assessments should not deter school systems from using student growth measurement models, wrote McMahon Parton and Aldeman.
To continue to have valid and usable estimates of student growth, school systems can implement student growth percentiles, value-add, which is an analytical approach to see student's progress and whether teaching methods are having a positive or negative impact on learning, or other approaches, they wrote.