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Programs > Teacher and Principal Evaluation > FAQ
FAQs - School Progress Index (SPI)

School Progress Index (SPI) FAQs

Do we have to include the SPI as a measure?

If so, when will that data be available next year?

Does the SPI distinguish high-performing from low-performing schools?

MSA Science, which is given once in elementary grades and once in middle grades, appears to have a disproportionate weighting (a full third of the MSA 20%) in the School Progress Index compared to MSA reading and math, which are given every year, grades 3 to 8. Why is this?

National Student Clearinghouse data are part of the College and Career Readiness part of the SPI. What are these data?

Similarly, where do the AP data come from and how does it become part of College and Career Preparation?

Is a teacher assigned to a high-poverty school penalized by the SPI?

If a school is very homogenous and has no subgroups larger than 20 students, the minimum cell size, how is Gap calculated?

Why does the SPI treat the Index as separate from the three component parts for establishing the Strands?



Q: Do we have to include the SPI as a measure?

A: The SPI is part of the ESEA waiver and as such, is the replacement for the old AYP model under NCLB. As part of school accountability, SPI applies to all systems and all schools.

As part of the Teacher Principal Evaluation program, the SPI must only be used if the system is using the State Model.

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Q: If so, when will that data be available next year?

A: The 2012 SPI data should be available December 2012.

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Q: Does the SPI distinguish high-performing from low-performing schools?

A: No. The School Progress Index is a completely different conversation. It is a conversation about progress. The index is designed to identify schools that are meeting or exceeding their targets or schools that are lagging in meeting their targets. Schools are compared against their own baseline data and work to reduce by half the percentage of students who have not achieved proficiency.
The SPI will recognize a school making progress serving challenged students, and it will also distinguish a school that is not pushing the most able students to their highest possible level of achievement.

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Q: MSA Science, which is given once in elementary grades and once in middle grades, appears to have a disproportionate weighting (a full third of the MSA 20%) in the School Progress Index compared to MSA reading and math, which are given every year, grades 3 to 8. Why is this?

A: The weights attributed to various components in the School Performance Index were set by a Standard Setting Panel which included a broad array of participants, including school system superintendents.

Moreover, even though science is tested only in grades 5, 8, and in the Biology HSA, science is taught every year. Because science is part of every year's learning and is of such importance in helping students meeting 21st century standards of College and Career Readiness, the standards setting panel reflected this thinking in the equal third weights given to reading, math and science MSA.

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Q: National Student Clearinghouse data are part of the College and Career Readiness part of the SPI. What are these data?

A: Data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) composes part of the 40% of the College and Career Preparation component that makes up the 20% for College and Career Readiness, the high school counterpart to Growth within the School Progress Indicator (SPI). Since 2010, MSDE has held a whole-state contract with NSC to report enrollment and persistence of Maryland public school graduates and certificate students.

NSC is the gold standard for college enrollment data. At present, 96% of all US institutions of higher learning participate. This roster can be reviewed here. The roster of proprietary and technical schools has been reviewed and approved by MSDE Career Technology Education staff for completeness.

MSDE submits three cohorts of graduates at least twice a year to NSC. Students are matched on name, date of birth, and high school ACT code. NSC data allow MSDE to report on enrollment and persistence data at landmark moments such as 6 months, 16 months, or 24 months which are required for various federal compliance reports. The present state of accuracy of these data are a function of collaboration with three Maryland LEAs.

One issue slightly affects the precision of NSC data via a state contract versus a stand-alone local contract, which is how FERPA-blocked students are handled. Any student may request a FERPA block, although few do. These students are returned as part of the summary data, but the students are not included among the detail records. For example, in a small LEA with two high schools, there may be 10 FERPA-blocked students. If this LEA had its own contract with NSC, it would note an additional 10 students among the summary counts but would not be able to divide these students among its two schools. At the state level, there are several hundred FERPA-blocked. They appear in the summary data, but MSDE is not able to distribute these across the 24 LEAs. Apart from this one issue, the NSC data received and reported by MSDE mirrors the accuracy of data received by LEAs which have held individual contracts with NSC in the past.

Student detail NSC data will be provided to LEAs when the official 2012 SPI data are issued.

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Q: Similarly, where do the AP data come from and how does it become part of College and Career Preparation?

A: MSDE receives a summary file of all AP records for the state. A student can become part of the numerator for calculating the CCP if she earns at least once score of 3 or above on an AP test. Each student is only counted once, regardless of how many tests she may have attempted and passed.

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Q: Is a teacher assigned to a high-poverty school penalized by the SPI?

A: No. The SPI is composed of various measures that are designed to operate independently of one another, providing a more nuanced view of a school's progress towards its own targets. Analysis of the percent students who receive federally subsidized free or reduced price meals, the proxy for poverty, indicates that poverty is not highly correlated with the SPI. At a state level, only 9% of observed variance correlates with the poverty measure, and for 16 of the 24 LEAs, this variance is even less.

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Q: If a school is very homogenous and has no subgroups larger than 20 students, the minimum cell size, how is Gap calculated?

A: The first step in calculating Gap is to remove all subgroup cells of 20 or fewer students. If a school were then to have no eligible subgroup, Gap for that school is not calculated. Instead, Growth and Achievement are weighted 50% each, instead of 33.3% each.

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Q: Why does the SPI treat the Index as separate from the three component parts for establishing the Strands?

A: The Standard Setting Panel reviewed several approaches to deriving strands from the four broad measures: achievement, growth, gap/CCR and the index which is the summary of the preceding three. By allowing the index to operate independently of achievement, growth, and gap/CCR, it creates greater compensatory flexibility than would otherwise be the case. It functions in a parallel capacity to the combined score on the HSA exams, which allows a student who is particularly strong in one content area to offset some weakness in others. Nevertheless, to earn a highest ranked strand, a school must meet all of its targets.

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Contact Information
David Volrath
Teacher/Principal Evaluation
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Email:  dvolrath@msde.state.md.us
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