Models for Evaluating Grade-toGrade Growth
LMSA Presentation
Robert L. Smith and Wendy M. Yen, Educational Testing Service
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
Introduction
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NCLB requires states to measure proficiency in
specific content areas with outcome measures tied to
content and performance standards.
Most users first think of vertical scales to measure
growth.
Title I of this legislation does not require use of
vertical scales and most states do not have them in
place.
Most states are currently using cross-sectional
results to evaluate their adequate yearly progress.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Introduction
• Tests to assess skills taught in stand-alone
courses (e.g., Algebra, Geometry, Biology,
Physics) are not amenable to vertical scaling
because they assess different kinds of
knowledge and skills.
• Despite these issues, educators have a need to
measure student growth from year to year.
• This presentation explores the growth
questions raised by parents and educators and
describes three methods of assessing this
growth.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Different Constituencies
• In order to really understand what educators wanted in
terms of growth measures, we gathered information
from educators via phone interviews, large group
meetings, and a small working group within a
particular state.
• With these educators we discussed the pros and cons
of three types of growth measures and listened to the
issues the educators were trying to address.
• It became clear that within a school district there are
different constituencies that want information on
student growth.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Different Constituencies
• These constituencies included parent,
teachers and administrators.
• In many cases they wanted similar
information, but there were some
important differences.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Parents’ Interests
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Is my child making a year’s worth of progress in a
year?
Is my child growing appropriately toward meeting
state standards?
How far away is my child from becoming
Proficient?
Is my child growing as much in English Language
Arts as in Math?
Did my child grow as much this year as last year?
Is Child A growing as much as Child B (who is in a
different grade)?
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Teachers’ Interests
Did my students make a year’s worth of
progress in a year?
• Did my students grow appropriately
toward meeting state standards?
• How close are my students to
becoming Proficient?
• Are there students with unusually low
growth who deserve special attention?
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Administrators’ Interests
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Did the students in our district/school make a
year’s worth of progress this year in all
content areas?
Are our students growing appropriately
toward meeting state standards?
How close are our students to becoming
Proficient?
Does this school or program show as much
growth as another school or program?
Does this district show as much growth as
the state?
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Administrators’ Interests
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In answering these questions, administrators
care about the following:
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Can I measure the growth of students even if they
do not change proficiency classifications from
one year to the next?
Can I do this taking into account the full
information of the test scores (i.e., look at all
changes in student scores, not just changes in
proficiency categories)?
Can I do this in a way that is technically sound?
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Administrators’ Interests
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Can I pool together results from different
grades to draw summary conclusions?
Can I gauge expected growth in high
school where students are moving across
courses (e.g., Biology to Chemistry) that
cannot be vertically scaled?
Can I communicate important results
clearly to teachers, other administrators,
the school board, and the media?
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Nature of Growth Information
• All of the questions raised here presume
a method of evaluating whether a given
amount of growth is reasonable and
appropriate.
• This evaluation has two necessary
aspects:
– One is normative.
– The other is absolute.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Nature of Growth Information
• Normative growth information provides
appropriate background for evaluating
whether growth is typical or unusually
large or small
• Absolute growth is essential in a
standards-referenced testing
environment where student performance
is compared to absolute standards (e.g.,
Proficient).
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Growth Model Options
Given
• the complexity of K-12 assessment
• the limited ability to track students
• the non-progressive nature of some programs
• the different constituencies interested in
growth information
It may be difficult to recommend any single
approach to measuring growth.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Growth Model Options
We describe 3 methods for measuring
growth in a K-12 context and discuss
their strengths and weaknesses:
• Vertical Scales
• Norms
• Expectancy Tables
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Vertical Scales
• In a vertical scale, scale scores are produced
that run continuously from the lowest grade to
the highest grade, with substantial overlap of
the scale scores produced at adjacent grades
• The goal is to have scale scores obtained from
different test levels that have the same
meaning ( a 500 means the same thing if
obtained from the grade 4 test or the grade 5
test).
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Vertical Scales
• Most commonly built by linking tests in adjacent
grades using IRT
• Most commonly used IRT models assume the
construct being measured is essentially
unidimensional.
• If a vertical scale is built to span tests administered in
grades 2-11, this would imply a progression of
learning throughout this range of grades.
• These assumptions can be untenable if curriculum is
designed to have large distinct sub-areas of content
that are not taught or learned hierarchically.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Vertical Scales
Advantages
1. When the underlying assumptions are met, vertically
scaled tests produce scale scores that are comparable
across grades. Growth can be assessed by looking at
the change in a student’s scale scores from one
grade to the next.
2. If students are tracked over more than adjacent
grades, vertical scaling is conceptually the most
straightforward option.
3. The scale scores can be used for many types of
statistical analyses.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Vertical Scales
Disadvantages
1.
2.
Vertical scaling makes the implicit assumption that the same
construct is being measured at the top and bottom of the scale.
For example, the mathematics taught in grade 11 is assumed
to be a progression of mathematics taught in grade 2. This
may be difficult to justify when the vertical scaling includes
many grades. If there is substantial grade-specific content,
there can be disordinal results (e.g., grade 6 scores on average
are lower than grade 5 scores).
Caution is needed when comparing growth in different parts
of the scale. As Braun (1988) noted, growth is most accurately
evaluated by comparing students who start at the same place.
When students start at different places on a scale, differences
in scale units can greatly complicate interpretations.
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Vertical Scales
Disadvantages
3. By themselves, vertical scales carry no normative
information or standards-referenced information.
4. A vertical scale can highlight inconsistencies
between standards set at different grades. For
example, they might show that the Basic level of
proficiency requires a scale score of 510 at grade 4
and a 508 at grade 5; this disordinality of
standards would not be desirable.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Vertical Scales
Disadvantages
5.
Scale scores have no intrinsic meaning and can be
difficult to explain. It is possible to conduct “scale
anchoring,” which provides information about what
a 500 means (i.e., what students at that score
typically know and are able to do). Over time, users
can develop an understanding of the scores.
6. The development of vertical scales requires a special
data collection and analysis.
7. Courses with distinct content cannot be vertically
scaled.
8. Vertical scaling does not always work.
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Vertical Scales
9.
In reality, because student learning and test
content change so much over grades, 1 unit
of growth at grade 3 typically does not mean
the same thing as 1 unit of growth at, say,
grade 7. Thus, even if a vertical scale is
produced, some type of normative or
expected growth information must be
considered in determining if a given amount
of growth is “appropriate.”
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Norms
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Provide information about a student in relation to a
reference group
Information is usually in the form of percentiles,
normal curve equivalents (NCEs), or Z-scores
Each student can be assigned a normative score that
indicates their relative position in the grade cohort.
On average, it is expected that a student, when at a
higher grade the next year, will receive about the
same score.
A negative change indicates less growth than
typically seen.
A positive change indicates more growth than
typically seen.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Norms
Advantages
1. Norms are fairly well understood and fairly easy to
explain to parents.
2. Norms allow comparisons of relative standing and
growth in relation to the reference group.
3. Norms make minimal assumptions about the
curriculum, tests, or test scales.
4. Norms allow comparisons of performance across
content areas, e.g., Johnny performed relatively
better in math than he did in English/language arts.
5. Given that states currently conduct census testing
for NCLB, the development of state norms require
no special data collection.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Norms
Disadvantages
1. Norms are calculated relative to a particular
population at a particular time. If “rolling” norms
are used to accommodate changes in populations
over time, changes in the norms must be considered
separately from changes in individual students. For
example, if the norm group increases in over-all
performance from 2003 to 2004, then a student who
improves in an absolute sense can appear to not be
improving in a relative sense (i.e., not improving as
much as students did on the average).
2. There is no continuous growth scale on which to
display performance or conduct statistical analyses.
3. Expectations are based on cross-sectional data, not
longitudinal data that reflect actual student growth.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Norms
Disadvantages
4. Changes in population demographics can
require the development of new norms to
provide an appropriate reference group.
5. There is no direct connection between
normative expectations and whether a
student is progressing sufficiently toward
becoming Proficient (or some other absolute
standard).
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Norms
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On the surface, norms are relatively easy to
understand and therefore appealing for a
parent/teachers audience.
However, norms in and of themselves are not
growth measures, and analyses of them are
required to draw appropriate conclusions
about growth.
For example,
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on average a student’s score is not expected to be
as extreme the following year as the previous one
or that technically sound growth measures should
be expressed in NCS vs. percentiles.
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Tables of Expected Growth
Using longitudinal data, regression analyses can
be conducted where higher-grade scores can
be regressed on to the next lower-grade
scores.
The results of this analysis could be summarized
in tables that show, e.g., how grade 3
students who obtained a given score on the
grade 3 test usually scored on the grade 4
test.
These tables would be used to determine whether
a student is making typical progress.
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Tables of Expected Growth
These results can be developed and expressed
using within-grade scales that are not
vertically connected.
Differences between actual and expected
performance can also be standardized to
allow for comparisons across grades and
content areas.
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Tables of Expected Growth
Advantages
1. Expectations are fairly straightforward to
explain and understand, but more
complicated than norms.
2. Expectations permit comparisons of growth
relative to growth typically seen in other
students in the state, district, or school,
depending on the level of analysis.
3. Growth expectations require minimal
assumptions about the data.
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Tables of Expected Growth
Advantages
4. Expectations can be developed between nonhierarchical courses (e.g., Biology and
Chemistry).
5. Growth expectations are based on
longitudinal data reflecting how other
students have progressed from Year 1 to Year
2. Thus, expectations can be more accurate
than the cross-sectional normative data.
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Tables of Expected Growth
Disadvantages
1. Expectations are calculated relative to a
particular population at a particular time.
The expectations might have to be
recalculated every year and would thus be
labor intensive.
2. There is no continuous growth scale on
which to display performance or to conduct
statistical analyses.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Tables of Expected Growth
Disadvantages
3. There is no direct connection between
normative expectations and whether a
student is progressing sufficiently toward
becoming Proficient (or some other absolute
standard). However, absolute standards can
be related to expectations.
4. This method would require matched data in
adjacent grades and presumes the existence
of unique student identifiers so that students
could be tracked.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Tables of Expected Growth
In addition, for a parent/teacher audience, a
graphical Student Growth Report could be
provided to help students, parents and
teachers understand:
• How much the student grew during the past
year and
• How much growth would be needed in the
upcoming year to reach a Proficient cut
score.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Discussions with Users
We discussed the three growth models with
educators in large groups and small working
groups. The major conclusions from the
discussion were:
1. Different users have different needs and
different levels of understanding of
measurement. In particular, the needs of
parents and teachers differ from those of
school administrators, researchers, and
program evaluators. It is not necessary or
appropriate to select only one growth
measure or provide the same measure to
all audiences.
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Discussions with Users
2. All audiences wanted to be able to measure
growth within proficiency levels and to
know how close students in a Basic
category were to the Proficient cut score.
3. There was interest in making comparisons
of performance at high school in content
areas where a vertical scale was not
possible (e.g., between Biology and
Chemistry).
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Discussions with Users
4.
There was concern that the use of norms would
confuse the state’s message about the importance
of standards. Also, many people do not
understand norms, confusing them with percent
correct scores, or they believe that norms will
mask student progress or be used to make
excuses for poor progress. However, these
educators believed that school administrators
could appropriately use normative data.
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Discussions with Users
5.
There was interest in and extended discussion of growth
expectations.
– It was acknowledged that such expectations realistically
accounted for the fact that Proficient was more difficult
to reach at some grades than at others.
– There was consideration of the possibility of producing
different expectation tables for different populations,
such as English learners, but it was essential that the
reality of the extra challenges faced by those students
not be used as an excuse for accepting non-Proficient
performance from them.
– The educators suggested providing simple
classifications as part of the expectations: Growth
Below Expectation (1), At Expectation (2), Above
Expectation (3). These classifications could be used in
parent/teacher conferences as well as in school/district
analyses.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Discussions with Users
The majority of participants strongly opposed the
release of norms for state standards-referenced
tests, believing this would be a “step backward”,
away from standards-referenced testing.
Others thought that norms could be a useful adjunct
to standards-referenced scores.
Expected growth appeared to offer the information
that was needed to evaluate “how much growth
was reasonable”.
Evaluators felt it was essential that norms or
demonstration of “typical” growth not be used as
an excuse for a student not growing sufficiently
toward becoming proficient.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Conclusions
After discussions with potential users it
appeared that the growth expectations
method could address, in a technically
sound manner, all of the
parent/teacher/administrator questions
listed previously.
The development of such growth expectations
avoids the assumptions, expense , and
uncertainty of success in the development
of vertical scales.
The growth expectations can be
communicated effectively to the different
audiences.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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Conclusions
A growth expectations table could be used by
administrators to determine growth for students
in a district.
A single digit growth classification, indicating
whether a student’s growth was Below Average,
Average, or Above Average could provide an
indicator of how well students were performing
relative to expectations and be provided to
administrators, teachers, and parents.
A score report could be constructed that combines
normative and absolute considerations in
evaluating growth without reliance on a vertical
scale.
Unpublished Work © 2005 by Educational Testing Service
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