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Building Additional Capabilities into the Washington Achievement Index

Release Date: 

October 8, 2014

With each new school year, the State Board of Education is building additional capabilities into the Washington Achievement Index. This is a great tool for principals, staff, parents, and advocates. And now, more than ever before, you can understand the aggregate performance of a school as well as how particular subgroups of students are performing, based on race, income, and other factors.

Below are two examples of what you can do, but if you want to play with the tool yourself, go to and launch the Index interactive tool.

The first page of the Index shows you the school’s performance across three different indicators. These are:

  • Proficiency (How many kids are passing the test at my school?)
  • Growth (What is the rate of academic growth kids are demonstrating on the test at my school?)
  • Career and College-Readiness (Are kids graduating at my school? Are they prepared for post-secondary?)

Each indicator is scored using this color matrix:

Blue is the highest rating tier and red is the lowest rating tier

You can see at this school shown below that while many kids are passing the tests, the rate of academic growth they are demonstrating from year to year is comparatively low. And, the rate of academic growth experienced by the targeted subgroups (traditional underserved student populations) is even lower. Even when your aggregate score is just fine, the Index can reveal equity issues that a school needs to consider.

Targeted student subgroups average score is lower than the all students group, in both proficiency and growth

The Index helps us confront an interesting and important concept — just because a particular kid passes the test each year doesn’t mean they are growing the way we hope they would. It’s possible to pass tests both years but actually regress! But the opposite is also true – it’s possible to not pass both years but to demonstrate real strong growth. For this reason, it’s a good idea to monitor both proficiency and growth!

The next look is at the ‘performance details’ page (on the actual site, just click the tabs to move from one to another). Suppose I wanted to understand more about all the red cells in the targeted subgroup populations. Who is in that ‘targeted’ group and how are each of the groups in this category scoring?

The performance details show the index score by subgroup. You will see a score for each subgroup that has at least 20 students (student privacy concerns dictate this.)

This detail reveals a fair amount of variation in performance. What jumps out at me is the Hispanic subgroup, which on the whole is passing the test in great numbers (proficiency), but showing very low growth, particularly in reading.  The same is true, to a lesser extent, for the free/reduced lunch eligible population of students, and students with disabilities.  It certainly makes you want to ask questions. Why is this happening?

Shows view of the Achievement Index: performance details view

This type of analysis allows parents to ask good questions and be informed consumers of their schools, and it allows principals and other district administrators to get data about their school in a user-friendly format for the purpose of tracking performance and setting goals.

It’s always good to remind ourselves that we tend to overestimate the importance of standardized test scores as a system. They are important, but they aren’t all that is, and frankly, they are somewhere down the list of things that I, as a parent, concern myself in any practical way. They certainly need to be viewed in the context of everything else schools do for kids. Of course, these aggregate data can never substitute for simply getting to know your school and child’s experience in a real qualitative way. But, if we are going to give state assessments, it’s our responsibility to harvest the performance data and information, and present it in the most user-friendly and helpful manner that we can. That is what the achievement index tool is all about: Improving.

Want to know more? There are tons of tools available to you if you want to dig in and learn more about this Index. The front page has an Index FAQ, a detailed methodology break down, an overview video, and a glossary. You can also download all of the data into an Excel sheet if manipulating giant amounts of data on a spreadsheet is something that excites you. Which, for me, it doesn’t. Which is why we created the tool!

If you have comments about this post or the Index in general, you can be in contact with Andrew Parr from the State Board staff at

-Ben Rarick,
Executive Director

Media Contact: 

Alissa Muller, SBE Communications Manager, (360) 725-6501