Measuring Student Growth

Testing anxiety is a major trigger of discipline issues at school and at home. When young people are stressed and anxious, they may act out more in an attempt to take control of their life. It’s normal for me to receive more requests for discipline help during testing times of the year.

When it comes to tests, many educators are familiar with the term “normative” as a testing term. This word refers to the process of comparing a student’s academic performance on a standardized achievement test with a group of students who took the test under similar circumstances in the past.

The test results of the original student group are taken as the norm. In other words, this group is considered to represent “normal” behavior on the test—against which all future students are compared.

In contrast to this type of testing is the type that measures a person’s growth—that is, comparing a present performance to the same person’s prior performances.

Comparing a person to the person’s own progress is the most natural way to measure human growth and learning. At the beginning of the year, let’s say, a student could not read “The Cat in the Hat,” do a pull-up, draw a picture of a person, give a word describing how the youngster was feeling, or say “Excuse me!” when bumping into someone else. However, by the end of the year the student could do all of these things. Yet, this student scored at the 30 percent level on standardized tests at the beginning AND at end of the year. This student would be considered a “normative” failure. But from a growth perspective, the student would be considered successful.

What grade would you give this student? Do you notice discipline issues increasing during testing weeks? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.