Imagine Schools evaluates academic achievement primarily through same student learning gains, similar to the approach used by KIPP and advocated as an appropriate measure of school quality by the Obama Administration. By testing students at the start of the year, our teachers learn what students know and in what areas they need the most improvement. Testing students at year-end then shows how far each student advances during the school year.
Learning gains allow assessment of how well a school helps students learn, as contrasted with year-end proficiency tests that measure only what students know at a point in time, which may be attributable to a former school where students have fallen behind grade level.
In the 2011-12 school year, 90% of Imagine Schools’ campuses exceeded nationwide public school average math and reading learning gains based on the Stanford Achievement Test Series (Stanford 10). Nearly 63% of Imagine Schools’ students demonstrated average reading and math learning gains of one year or more (vs. 50% at public schools nationally on the Stanford 10 tests).
These learning gains are particularly impressive in the context of students’ proficiency when they entered Imagine charter schools from other schools. Almost three-fourths of students transferring into Imagine’s schools experienced learning gains of less than a full grade per year at their previous schools. Students falling behind in other schools have turned around their performance in Imagine’s schools and now are advancing far beyond their prior performance.
We are proud of the academic gains attained by our students and schools. Nonetheless, we recognize that students who are several grade levels behind will need more accelerated growth to catch up. In order to improve learning gains further, Imagine leaders and educators are implementing more rigorous approaches to instruction and assessment, with particular focus on reading and literacy. Imagine educators share effective practices among our schools so our students can attain even greater academic success.