Developing an Academic Improvement Index

Presented by Catherine Matthews, Everett Public Schools, WA

The ears of the assessment directors in the room perked up when Catherine Matthews, Director of Research and Assessment at Everett Public Schools in WA, took the floor to describe her unique approach to identifying achievement gaps and tracking them to closure. Matthews’s approach combines proficiency rates and levels into a single index score that is intuitive to use. By looking at the standard and how close a student is to meeting that standard, educators can start to see if their students are experiencing growth.

“We believe each student has the ability to learn and achieve to high standards.” Catherine Matthews, Director of Research and Assessment


Matthews discussed using the right data to solve the right problem, saying, “There’s an infinite amount of data, and I could sit in my office and look at it all day because it is fascinating, but it is not infinitely useful.” She continued, “I am always thinking about how I’m going to translate the data in our schools to a board member, a principal, a teacher, [or] a cabinet member.” Matthews is using the data to identify sufficient growth to move a student who is currently performing at Level 1 of 4 to Level 3, or meeting the standard, in two years. That is how accelerated growth occurs—and accelerated growth is what is needed to close achievement gaps.

To learn more about how the academic improvement index was used to close the equity gap in Everett, read this case study.

Related Articles

Top Five Takeaways

Many great ideas were exchanged at the Ferguson Institute, and a few themes emerged.

Read the Article

Leveraging District Data Chats to Guide Changes in Instruction and Operation in Schools

For two years in a row, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), Florida, has received an “A” rating from the Florida Department of Education.

Read the Article

Defeating the Predictability of Failure—Using Data to Shape School Culture

"Would you rather have headwinds or tailwinds?" Patricio Vargas, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services at Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, California, posited this question as part of his captivating presentation.

Read the Article

Using Data with Equity Initiatives 

This panel presentation brought together educators from three school districts across the United States who are focused on using data to inform equity initiatives in their home districts.

Read the Article