Developing a Growth Mindset

Comparing Proficiency

The testing scores are now compiled into reports which are shared with administrators and they examine if the percent proficient went up or down compared to last year. Of course, this year’s grade 8 students are a different group than last year, so while we can compare the numbers, we really can’t compare the groups. Unfortunately, the accountability system which focuses on proficiency leads educators to focus on the wrong metric of student and school success.

The Importance of Growth 

Going hand-in-hand with examining proficiency should be the examination of growth within each student group and indeed, each individual student. I have spent the last week if so, doing an analysis of a district’s scores. I see where one school has had a percent proficient below the district average and lower than last year for that grade and subject, which on the surface looks like a concern. However, when I examined the change in NCE score from last year to this year, the average NCE difference was a positive 3.0. More importantly, the ratio of students making a gain was 2 to 1.  However, in another school, the percent proficient increased, but the NCE difference was a -3.5, and for every student who had an increase in NCE, there were 2 students who had a decrease.

As educators, we need to stop comparing year to year proficiency and focus on examining growth. The one characteristic of growth which is important for understanding the impact of the school on students is that growth is not impacted by a student’s socio-economic status or ethnicity.

A close examination involves looking at growth in the context of each student’s previous achievement level: “Did students from level 1-5 have similar of different growth?” Another way of looking at the growth is the distribution of growth across the range of NCE scores for a group. This can be seen in the chart below:

The next step is to disaggregate the growth by teacher. We need to know who the effective teachers are and provide feedback to these teachers. Also, teachers who did not “grow” students need to know the “who and the why”, so improvement can occur. The feedback NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS.

Developing a Growth Mindset

School leaders and teachers need to focus on what can be done to have a student grow from year to year. Surprisingly, the most important factor in this growth mindset is not in the teacher, but within each student. Each student needs to know about his/her past performance and the changes over the years. Each student needs to have a means of knowing if they are making progress. Most importantly, each student needs to understand that effort outweighs raw ability.

For more information on the Growth Mindset see: