Tami Hunter

4 Questions to Consider When Winter Test Scores Drop

Blog Post created by Tami Hunter Employee on Jan 31, 2018

The subject line on the email from my daughter’s third grade teacher read “Totally Baffled.”


It was mid-January, and my daughter’s class had taken the winter MAP Growth Math assessment that day. Her teacher was aware that I worked for NWEA and that I had used MAP Growth data in my own classroom when I was teaching. Her question was about an individual student whose score had dropped between fall and winter testing: my daughter.


My daughter’s score had gone down four RIT points, the email said. Four points is not too much greater than the standard error of measure, so I wasn’t all that alarmed. But I still wanted to know more about what happened.


I asked the same four questions I ask whenever I see that a student’s score has gone down:


  • Did she take much less time on the winter test than she did on the fall test?
  • Did she seem distracted? Was there anything going on that day or during testing that may have made it hard for her to do a good job?
  • How did she feel about how she had done?
  • Is she learning? Do you see evidence in class that she is making progress on the skills she needs?


The teacher assured me that my daughter was learning and that she had shown a lot of progress in class since the fall. She mentioned some specific concepts they’d been working on and some class assignments recently completed.

We decided that we would keep an eye on her but otherwise not worry too much about the drop and that we’d see in the spring if her score came back up.


Why did my daughter’s score go down? It’s hard to know for sure. However, now MAP Growth is providing even more information about student engagement during the test that could have helped answer this question.


The researchers at NWEA have done a lot of work around student engagement in assessment. As a result, this past fall the MAP Growth assessments featured exciting new tools that monitor the length of time it takes a student to respond to each test item and that compare the time to the average amount it has taken other students to respond to the same item. You can read more about these features on our Teach. Learn. Grow. blog here.


What kinds of questions do you think about when you see a winter score drop? Tell me about it in the comments below!