This is our third year of publishing the “Grade Equivalent Scores” for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or ITBS – the standardized test we take annually at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School. We did not have comparison data the first year we published results. I also blogged that year about our overall philosophy regarding the proper context for standardized testing. Last year we able for the first time to graph out comparison data and provided an analysis of our findings.
There was, and continues to be, some confusion about the proper understanding of what a “grade equivalent score” is and, more importantly, is not. I am happy to refer you to a thorough explanation, but if you want the quick summary:
Grade-equivalent scores attempt to show at what grade level and month your child is functioning. However, grade-equivalent scores are not able to show this. Let me use an example to illustrate this. In reading comprehension, your son scored a 7.3 grade equivalent. The seven represents the grade level while the 3 represents the month. 7.3 would represent the seventh grade, third month, which is December. The reason it is the third month is because September is zero, October is one, etc. It is not true though that your son is functioning at the seventh grade level since he was never tested on seventh grade material. He was only tested on fifth grade material. That’s why the grade-equivalent scores should not be used to decide at what grade level a students is functioning.
This year, I blogged about our firm belief that “reflection leads to achievement”. In that post, I attempt to peg our pioneering work in 21st century learning to academic success. All the blogging, reflecting, technology, project-based learning, flipped classrooms, etc., we not only do because we believe it leads to the best outcomes…we do it because it does lead to the best outcomes.
We do not believe that standardized test scores represent the only, nor surely the best, evidence for academic success. Our goal continues to be providing each student with a “floor, but no ceiling” representing each student’s maximum success. Our best outcome is still producing students who become lifelong learners.
But I also don’t want to undersell the objective evidence that shows that the work we are doing here does in fact lead to tangible success!
Our graduates the last three years have successfully placed into the high school programs of their choice. Each one had a different ceiling – they are all different – but working with them, their families and their teachers, we successfully transitioned them all to the schools and programs they qualified for.
And for three years running, despite all the qualifications and caveats, our ITBS scores continue to demonstrate excellence. Excellence within the grades and between them. And let’s be clear, this academic excellence comes with an inclusive admissions process.
That’s the headline…let’s look more closely at the story.
First up is “Language”.
Remember…in order to track a class you have to compare 2012 to 2013. For example, in 2012, the Language Grade Equivalent of Average for Grade Two was 3.4. In 2013, those kids are now in Grade Three and scored 4.9. That class “grew” 1.5 from last year to this. (Also, the scale stops at 13…it is the highest score available.)
The positive, of course, is that each grade is functioning at an extremely high level! There are dips up and down, but when both the averages and the diversity level is high, it hard to find much to point to. One data point to explore is that although most classes grew at least one grade equivalency, Grades One and Two did not. They still have high averages, but this is worth looking at further. This is also the benefit of not teaching to the test…it can sometimes uncover gaps in curriculum or teaching.
Let’s move onto “Reading”.
Here the news is all positive! Each class grew at least one grade equivalency (technically Grade One grew .9) and all are functioning at very high levels. One possible influence that we will be looking to track is the growing impact of the Daily Five, which we began piloting in Grades 4 & 5, but also had influence on other grades.
Let’s take a look at “Math”.
Again, the overwhelming news is positive. This marks the second year we are using Singapore Math, the first year for a few of our teachers, and the first year of departmentalization in Grades Four & Five. The only trend worth noting is the relatively flat growth in the youngest grades. The grade averages, even in those grades, are appropriately high and the class averages still show growth. It is the rate of growth we will need to explore. It could be that our students are covering more than the curriculum in Kindergarten – where the curriculum is the most sparse – and it takes until Grades Two or Three before the curriculum jumps. [NOTE: It takes a lot of courage for teachers to work under this level of transparency.] We have noted in the past that the curriculum tends to start out slow and build…and if that is the case, we may need to think about how to supplement in Kindergarten and Grade One.
To sum up, despite our focus on individual growth, our average growth continues to significantly outpace national percentiles and grade equivalency scores. Does “reflection lead to achievement” at MJGDS? Does being a 21st century learning pioneer translate into high academic success?
Three years in a row may not be conclusive, but it carries weight.
As with last year, all receiving teachers will have prior years’ data and be charged with making the next year even better. They have been up to the task these last three years and we look forward to more learning, more growth and more excellence in the year to come.