Watch Us Grow: Growth Curriculum

Measuring Growth in Michigan Schools

For decades, student performance has been measured only by achievement. Either you can do the work, or you can’t. These basic assessments were oversimplified and combined to give a school a "proficiency” score, which many assumed was an accurate rating of how effective teaching and learning were taking place at these schools. However, this was only showing part of the picture. According to the new Overall School Index we are now using in all Michigan schools, this achievement data is only 29% of the picture. Meanwhile, new ways of measuring student growth account for 34%. Lets take a look at the full breakdown of Michigan's new model for measuring school performance.

Achievement data alone assumes all students are the same. In Ferndale, we are acutely aware and proud of the differences between us. Our community includes people from all walks of life and a wide range of socio-economic situations. We also welcome new members into our school family with open arms, ready to help them overcome any challenges they may have struggled with at their previous schools. Bringing these different students up to the same level of proficiency is a unique challenge, because every student requires a different amount of growth to reach the same benchmark.

Teachers have long understood that not every student is the same. Some students start with the skills and knowledge to exceed expectations, and some have to be taught these prerequisite skills first. Our teachers use a range of growth metrics to track student progress and adjust their teaching to meet the needs of specific students. Organizing students according to needs and strengths in the classroom is only the beginning.

Our district has built an impressive system of support structures that focuses on providing all students the resources they need to improve individual proficiency and persistent growth. Struggling students can be helped with a variety of  in-class interventions and out-of-class support, while other students who have met benchmarks can be supported with enrichment opportunities to challenge them further. From focused reading time and specialized web tools to engage students in math or reading to individualized family action plans and technology enhanced instruction, a wide range of tools are available to help each student excel. We call this Intervention & Enrichment (I&E), and it is one of our pillars of excellence that allows teachers to have the flexibility to support each student. 

All of these different strategies amount to what we call growth curriculum. Meeting our students where they are and empowering them to achieve their true potential as individuals is a core principle of a Ferndale Schools education. And, we’re not alone. In fact, the state of Michigan is now calculating growth data as 34% of the overall index for school performance, higher than any other metric. By using M-STEP test scores and comparing student progress with like-scoring peers over a three-year period, we are now able to show a much more accurate picture of how much students are learning in our schools, instead of only comparing what they know.

Accountability is important for our schools. These institutions are fundamental to the future of our children, our community, our democracy, and our world. Our vision is to be an inclusive school family that holds all students to high expectations and supports them on their journey to being lifelong learners and pursue their life’s passion. Lifelong learning is something we talk about often, because learning is how we grow. Our responsibility as educators is to prepare students, not only to meet the contemporary standards of knowledge but to strive and struggle to excel beyond expectations. The pace of change is rapidly increasing, and nothing is more important than preparing our children with the tools to change themselves in any way they choose.


More about the Overall School Index System

from 2017 Michigan School Index System Guide PDF Document

The Michigan School Index System is comprised of six components. The components were selected based on ESSA requirements, stakeholder input, public feedback, and consideration of best practices for school accountability reporting among states and education data nationwide. The components were weighted to combine results into an overall 0-100-point index for each school. The table below lists each component, provides a basic description of that component, and gives the weight the component contributes to the overall index.

Student Growth - 34%

Students meeting or exceeding adequate growth expectations.

Student Proficiency - 29%

Students achieving at or above a level indicating they are on track for college- and career-readiness.

School Quality/Student Success - 14%

This component is a combination of up to five subcomponents, each described below:

  • K-12 Percent Not Chronically Absent (students with on-track attendance)
  • K-8 student access to arts/physical education
  • K-8 student access to librarians/media specialists
  • 11/12 Advanced Coursework (students completing advanced coursework through Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Early/Middle College, dual enrollment pathways)
  • Post-Secondary Enrollment (students enrolling in postsecondary institutions within 12 months of graduation)

Graduation Rate - 10%

Students graduating with a high school diploma within 4, 5, or 6 years.

English Learner Progress - 10%

Students achieving at or above a level indicating they have met or exceed adequate growth expectations toward English language proficiency or are proficient in the English language.

Assessment Participation - 3%

Students participating in state assessments for the summative content area tests and the English language proficiency assessment.

Schools receive an overall index value based on the areas for which they have data, as well as index values for each individual area and student subgroup. Schools without enough students/data may have some components excluded from their overall index value. For example, an elementary school will not have a graduation rate component. Schools missing components will have weights from those missing components redistributed proportionally to the remaining components.

Individual components are covered in technical detail in separate business rules documents. Technical business rules can be found at

More about Student Growth Percentiles

from M-STEP Guide to Reports PDF Document

Student Growth Percentiles Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) will appear on the Individual Student Report, Student Overview, and in the school data files accessed through the Secure Site.

Student growth percentiles represent one powerful way to understand growth. Values for SGPs in Michigan range from 1-99, and can be interpreted in similar ways to other forms of percentiles. Scores close to 50 represent average growth. Higher SGPs indicate higher growth, while lower SGPs indicate lower growth. These percentiles are relative to students in Michigan, who had comparable achievement scores on prior state-level tests. Because of this, only students who received valid scores on the most recent state assessment in a content area and have a valid score on this year’s test will receive SGPs. It also follows that SGPs will not be available for students who take M-STEP tests in fourth grade science, fifth grade social studies, and third grade ELA or mathematics.

The addition of SGPs to Individual Student Reports, Student Overview Reports, and data files can add important context to understand the growth of individual students and growth patterns within groupings of students. When combined with achievement scores and proficiency categories, SGPs can help educators understand how student achievement scores compare to their peers in the state who had comparable prior test scores. SGPs will be added to reports after the initial release of reports due to the additional time required to calculate. Visit the MDE Accountability website for more information about Student Growth Percentiles (,4615,7- 140-22709_59490-298094--,00.html).

Note: In Spring 2017, grade 7 Science reports, and grade 8 and 11 Social Studies reports do not include SGPs because they do not have a prior state assessment score:

  • 7th grade Science: students did not take the grade 4 M-STEP Science test. When the Science test was moved from 5th grade MEAP to 4th grade M-STEP, these students were in the cohort of students who were in 4th grade for the final year of the 5th grade Science test and in 5th grade for the first year of the 4th grade Science test.
  • 8th grade Social Studies: students did not take the grade 5 M-STEP Social Studies test. When the Social Studies test was moved from 6th grade MEAP to 5th grade M-STEP, these students were in the cohort of students who were in 5th grade for the final year of the 6th grade Social Studies test and in 6th grade for the first year of the 5th grade Social Studies test.
  • 11th grade Social Studies: When the Social Studies test moved from the fall of 9th grade to spring in 8th grade, these students were the cohort of students who did not take any Social Studies test. They were 8th graders in the final year of the 9th grade Social Studies test and 9th graders in the first year of the 8th grade Social Studies test.

Seeing Growth

Lets take a look at how achievement data can by misleading. Using a sample of reading scores from four individual 7th grade students, we will reveal how much more can be understood about student learning within our schools by looking beyond achievement to also consider growth. This student data is from the 2017 M-STEP test results, and was not sampled randomly but specifically selected to show a range of student data and necessary intervention and enrichment strategies. It does not represent an average of Ferndale Schools student performance data. In the images and discussion below, we will compare achievement data–in the form of  a single test score (shown as above-ground growth)–and growth data–in the form of student growth percentiles (below ground growth.) Student Growth Percentiles are calculated by comparing peers scoring similarly on two years of previous assessments. Notice that all student performance across the achievement spectrum can be better understood by looking at growth.

4 plants arranged left to right with increasing levels of vertical growth, denoted as increasing achievement scores. Below ground, root size varies, showing that achievement data does not directly correlate to student growth and is not an accurate predictor of student learning



Achievement is commonly measured using test scores like these M-STEP reading scores, which serve as an important tool for measuring cumulative progress toward a given goal.

Achievment scores arranged left to right as follow: 1672, 1675, 1702, & 1726. Possible range is indicated as 1618 - 1753.


Growth metrics, like these Student Growth Percentiles, monitor learning throughout the process, enabling teachers to assign & monitor both intervention &support plans for struggling students and enrichment opportunities to challenge students who are achieving but may not be fulfilling their full potential.

Root growth and corresponding Student Growth Percentile data arranged left to right as follows: 90th percentile, 7th percentile, 25 percentile, and 92nd percentile.

What It Means

Now, let's break down intervention and support strategies for each student based on this data.

Student 1

plant representing student 1.

This student has an achievement score of 1672, which is in the Not Proficient range. However, this student is demonstrating growth equal to or better than 90% of like peers across the state.

This student, while not yet proficient, has begun to show impressive growth and can expect to reach full proficiency soon with continued intervention & support.

Student 2

plant representing student 2

Student 2 has an achievement score of 1675, which is in the Not Proficient range. More alarming is the student's multi-year progress, which is only demonstrating growth equal to or better than 7% of like peers across the state.

This student is not demonstrating sufficient growth. Current intervention & support is not effective and new methods must be employed as soon as possible to prevent further decline in achievement.

Student 3

plant representing student 3

This student has an achievement score of 1702, which extends just within the Proficient range. The student's growth percentile is only equal to or better than 25% of like peers across the state.

This student data demonstrates why even proficient students need to be monitored for growth. This student is showing signs of poor engagement. Without an enrichment plan that is sufficiently challenging, the student may fall below proficiency. This could result in a fixed mindset and an assumption that intelligence is static and cannot be further developed throughout life.

Student 4

plant representing student 4

This student has an achievement score of 1726–within the advanced range–and is demonstrating growth equal to or better than 92% of like peers across the state.

It is clear that this advanced student is not only achieving but also demonstrating very impressive growth. The student is challenged & engaged, and is likely to continue excelling. The current enrichment opportunities are leading to spectacular results.