In October of 2012, Bill and Melinda Gates visited a school in the Eagle County, Colorado, school district called Eagle Valley High School. This school implemented many Gates funded experiments, including merit pay, and Gates praised the school in his 2013 annual letter. I analyzed their test scores a few years ago and wrote about them.
Colorado is a state that rates schools based on ‘growth’ measures. These are the metrics that supposedly enable us to compare schools where students have different proficiency rates by focusing instead (as Al Franken famously grilled DeVos about) on ‘growth.’ And while I agree that a school that is getting actual growth in student learning is a good thing, I don’t think that the measures right now, whether they are for teachers or for schools, are very accurate. Still, since that never stops reformers like Bill Gates from arguing that schools or teachers that don’t perform well on these measures need to be closed or fired, I do like to point out when some of the schools they praise do poorly on these metrics.
I checked the most recent ‘growth’ numbers from Colorado. A ‘growth’ score of 50% means that a school is getting average ‘growth’ compared to the other schools in Colorado. Something in the 40s is not so good while something in the 30s is really bad. So it is ironic that the school that Gates visited and wrote about, Eagle Valley High School has the lowest ‘growth’ score in their district with a 36.5% in ELA and a 34% in Math. The whole district has below average ‘growth’ with the exception of the middle schools which have average ‘growth.’
I know that Gates hasn’t addressed education in his most recent annual letter. Reformers love to tout their invented metrics when they support the policies they just know must work, but I would really love to see, one day, a reformer look at numbers like we see here in Eagle County and say either that the district is underperforming or that the metrics are flawed.