Part 8: Using Norm-Referenced Percentiles

Part 8: Using Norm-Referenced Percentiles

If you have followed my series, you know that I have walked through all aspects of the MTSS process - from identifying students for tiers to Progress Monitoring to the intervention itself. 

One important type of data to highlight is norm-referenced percentile scores. This data is super relevant to managing student tier placement and movement. 

Nationally norm-referenced scores are used to determine which students in a school or district are recommended for intervention services. Using nationally normed data allows you to see where your students stand in comparison to the larger group interacting with the same assessment. 

Before we dive into more specifics let’s define a norm-referenced score. A norm-referenced score compares an individual’s performance with the performance of others within a relevant norm group. For example, when looking at all second-grade students around the nation, where does this second-grade student fall in comparison.

One commonly reported norm-referenced score includes percentile ranks. Percentile ranks are useful when assessing students’ performance relative to their peers. 

So how does this work in Classworks?

Classworks assessments measure growth on a vertical scale.  Measuring growth vertically serves a dual purpose – to track growth and learning gains for individual students and to determine whether learning must be accelerated to catch up a student who is behind.

The Classworks Universal Screener then looks at those scores by grade level to assign norm-referenced percentile scores for all grades and subjects. This is a true national norm. So you may ask, why should I look outside of just my own school or district scores? Looking beyond your own scores gives districts an additional perspective about expectations for student scores outside of their own district. This helps you set goals for the future and help with planning for improvement and growth.

So how else are percentile ranks used?

Percentile ranks provide an easily decodable system of identifying test takers’ standings relative to others taking that test. This information is vital to seeing where students fall among their peers. 

This then allows schools to identify those students at or below the nationally normed 25th percentile as being potentially at risk.  For example, a district that uses the Classworks Universal Screener to identify fourth-grade students who are at risk of having problems in math will consider all students who scored at or below a 330 on the Fall administration of the screener for intervention services.

Our Universal Screener Results: RtI Recommendations Report provides this information. This report will show the student's scaled score, percentile rank, along with grade-level equivalency for all domains as well as the overall score. Then the list is broken down by intervention groups to easily see who needs intervention. 

These percentile ranks play an important part in tier identification. Typically Classworks recommends using the following percentiles for potential tier placement.
  1. Tier One - Above 25%
  2. Tier Two - Between 10% and 25%
  3. Tier Three - 10% and below

There are times, however, that this may not fit your  student population. Keep in mind, these cut scores are based on national, aggregated norms and may not align with the resulting percentages for your district. Ideally 80% of the students in your district are in tier one.

If less than 80% of students are scoring above the 25% percentile then the recommendation, beyond providing interventions for students, is to evaluate the quality of the tier one curriculum in the classroom and possibly look at professional development for teachers. We think about this like the upside-down triangle right? 

In this situation, a cut score at the 25th percentile may identify more or less than 25 percent of your students, depending on the skill level of the class, grade, or school. In this situation, districts might consider choosing a cut score that reflects the performance abilities of students enrolled in their district. In such an event, review all screener results for a big picture view.  To determine which students need intervention, look at the entire list and pull out the lower 25% in that group. 

There is so much to consider when placing students in intervention. Percentile scores and ranking play a vital role in not only giving you perspective about where students fall on a larger scale but also reflects the effectiveness of your curriculum. 

Once students are assigned to tiers, progress monitoring serves as additional ongoing testing to help plan the type of support needed for this group of students. Students begin progress monitoring to assess skills at their performance level. This provides additional insight into student skill readiness and further refines the student’s individualized learning instruction. 

Progress Monitoring is essential to keeping a close eye on student growth. Understanding the effectiveness of intervention is key to student success. If a student is not responding to intervention, it’s time to change the intervention or intervention level, right? It’s important to see the big picture. 

Classworks progress monitoring is directly tied to the Universal screener because it uses the same vertical scale, informs student individualized learning, and ultimately shows you how students are progressing toward mastering grade-level curriculum. Use the norm-referenced percentiles to make this data even more meaningful. 

For example, here we see Clark’s progress monitoring. He is making really nice progress. In fact, this data supports a next step of stopping this set of probes to move him up to the next level. 

While at 380 he is still in the 10th percentile for his grade level, his performance is showing that he is responding to the intervention and is ready to increase the level of his progress monitoring and of intervention within a short time period.  As this score moves up, Clark’s individualized assignment is adjusted to reflect the new skills he is ready to learn. Have Clark set a goal. Maybe his next goal is to hit 400 - to get to the 20th percentile and then 420 etc. Having clear goals builds student ownership of each accomplishment. Students can quickly move toward grade-level readiness. And isn’t that what it’s all about? 

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