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:

Engaging Students in Their Learning

Benchmark Testing Reports

With benchmark testing occurring throughout the state, this is a good time to consider how the information is used to improve student learning from the student perspective. Teachers generally examine the data to identify where they may need to re-teach or identify students who need additional instruction. However, what do the students get out of the benchmark testing process?

In my work as a data coach, I rarely encounter instances where a complete report of the student performance is provided to the student. This is an unfortunate situation. SchoolNet provides a student benchmark report. The last time I saw the report it was 7 pages long, really too long to be printed and distributed for each student.  Additionally, I wondered if it provided the information students really needed.   

Therefore, for some guidance on the topic of making learning “real” for students, I turned to Chapter 7: The flow of the lesson: the place of feedback from the book Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie.

Student Feedback

Here are some points Hattie makes:

  1. The quality of the feedback provided to students is a critical characteristic of successful teaching and learning.
  2. The feedback must have the ability to allow the students to see their successes and track progress to mastery.
  3. The feedback must have the ability to allow the students to see learning gaps between their performance and expected achievement
  4. The focus is on building self-understanding and self regulation of learning within students.

I would add that it is essential to provide information that encourages a growth (improvement) mindset; therefore I would add these characteristics to student feedback in two or more assessments of learning during a course:

  1. Feedback should include the learning targets in the form of skills list for the entire course, so students know what they have learned in relation to the “big picture”.
  2. The essential skills (high impact skills) are identified so some understanding of the relative importance of the skills is communicated in the student report.
  3. Item-level feedback is provided so that students gain an understanding the nature of the errors and what to do to improve.

Added Features of a Student Report

In the student reports I have created, students have a space for the student to write a reflection by answering the question:  What did I do to get these results?  Below that is a space for the student to write an action plan describing what will be done differently to improve results. 

Creating the Student Feedback Report

  • Some assessment tools include the ability to export item level data along with the standard or skill each item tests, if not then performance by standards will have to do. The data steward will export the data from the data assessment.
  • Put this data in a table in perhaps a Microsoft Access database.
  • Add the average score for each standard or skill, or the correct answer for each item if you have item level data.
  • In Access create a report template, to accept the data from the table as it “fills in the blanks”. Make sure you include the average score or the correct answer for each item.
  • Run the report so that data from the data table is inserted into the Access report.