I thought some might be interested in examining the statewide growth rankings by individual school for last year’s assessments to measure Kindergarten readiness given at the beginning and the end of the Kindergarten year. This information can be viewed by clicking on the following link:
This information is nice in that it gives us “growth” information to attempt to see what degree of learning might have occurred over the school year. This is in contrast to the far less desirable end-of-course or end-of-year scores which give us no indicator of what level of achievement the students were at when they actually began the course.
However, there are several problems with attempting to draw too many conclusions from these rankings or the amount of growth used to determine these rankings. The 2014-2015 Mississippi Kindergarten readiness assessments had several characteristics which absolutely need to be considered when looking at this growth and drawing any conclusions from it:
- This was the first year these assessments were given. During the first year there can be many unforeseen problems (such as technology limitations/problems giving the assessments at particular schools, lack of prior experience using technology by the students at a particular school which might affect scores from reflecting actual student knowledge, etc.). These unforeseen circumstances tell us nothing of the students’ learning in reading, but can skew results. Usually, after a new testing program is started such “first year hiccups” can be alleviated in the following years as districts and schools make adjustments to compensate for such occurrences.
- This assessment is very, very similar to the STAR Early Literacy test produced by Renaissance Learning which has the contract to produce this test for Mississippi. Therefore, the test is not designed to assess students who are already quite literate by the end of the year. Yet, in many of our schools a small number of Kindergarten students are often moved up from STAR Early Literacy to the more advanced, STAR Reading assessments to determine growth because of their high Early Literacy scores. This is important to note because high-performing students might literally “top out” on this readiness assessment and not show significant growth by the end of the year as they hit the “ceiling” of this assessment’s design. Several students hitting such a ceiling would adversely affect “growth” since little or none could be detected in these students who have exceeded the design of the assessment. This is important to remember, especially in schools that show higher levels of average beginning and ending scores.
- The information presented here is for raw scale score growth. It does not tell us how close the students were on average to hitting the appropriate growth “target” based upon their individual beginning score. This is important because students (on average) achieve very different magnitudes of raw or scale score growth depending upon their beginning score. The same assessments given over multiple years and/or the same assessments given to large numbers of students across the country can allow such “growth targets” to be determined giving students and teachers an average amount of growth which would be statistically “typical” for the student to achieve based upon the initial beginning of year score by the student. For example, hypothetically students beginning the year with a score of 500 might “on average” grow to a score of 674 by the end of the year (174 point growth in raw score). Alternatively, a student beginning the year at a 674 might “on average” grow to a score of only 710 (36 point growth in raw score). In this hypothetical situation, a classroom of students who all began the year with a 674 and ended the year with a 725 (49 points of raw score growth) would have “done better” than a classroom of students who all began the year with a 500 and ended the year all scoring a 600 (100 points of raw score growth). Those in the class beginning at 674 scored far more growth than what would be typical for their peers compared to those in the class beginning with a 500 whose growth was not as high as their peers, even though in terms of pure score growth (such as the data contained in this ranking) the 674 class did not have as much pure score growth! Instead of magnitude of score growth, this comparison to an average “growth target,” based upon the beginning of year score would be a much better indicator of learning progress. Such analysis and comparison to what is typical is important to factor into account before drawing too many conclusions about one school outperforming another in terms of growth, especially if those schools had very different average Fall (beginning of year) scores.
All of these factors should certainly be considered for the 2014-2015 growth results. As the state, hopefully, sticks with the same or very similar assessments over the next years more data could allow some of these issues to be addressed and perhaps some changes might be made to address the issue of this “top end ceiling,” if growth of all students is truly the “target.”