For years, parents and policymakers have looked to test scores to gauge the effectiveness of school districts and teachers. New research from Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Sean Reardon provides a different measure: students’ academic progress over a period of years.

Reardon examined test scores for students in third through eighth grade at 11,000 school districts across the country. Third-grade test scores, he found--whether they were higher or lower than the national average--did not correlate to students’ academic growth through elementary and middle school. In fact, growth rates in many low-income districts outpaced those in which...

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