On Poverty, Proficiency and Velocity
First, let me be clear: poverty matters. It impacts children’s starting point in terms of early learning. This is why proficiency is correlated with poverty. Proficiency is a performance standard, it is a destination, a mile marker of attainment in the context of a content standard. It is one of several important indicators of “performance” and it is a lagging indicator. It does not imply academic effectiveness. Policy makers and pundits do a disservice to the public when they conflate “performance” and proficiency. If an accountability system weights proficiency highest, then it creates an incentive for schools to maximize starting point and focus on kids on the cusp of proficiency—not all kids. This is a major problem with NCLB’s AYP measure and some states’ ESEA waivers.