Why do I see similar math growth projections for all of my 5th or 6th grade students?

Document created by Community User on Oct 30, 2017Last modified by Community User on Jul 26, 2020
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Why do I see similar math growth projections for all of my 5th or 6th grade students?

In most subjects, the general pattern that we see for normative growth between fall and spring is that students with lower initial fall scores tend to show higher typical (i.e., average) growth than students with higher initial RIT scores. This is generally true in math, but grade 5 shows an essentially constant growth trajectory across the achievement spectrum. This can be seen in the figure below, which shows typical math growth between fall and spring for grades K through 10 as a function of initial achievement. The graph below was created by the NWEA Research team based on data from the 2015 Norms Study. See MAP Growth: Where can I find the Norms Study and related documents?
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While there was slightly more differentiation across the achievement spectrum in grade 5 math in the 2020 norms sample, typical growth across the achievement spectrum remained fairly flat and was flatter in the 2020 norms sample for sixth grade than it was in the 2015 sample.

Graphs showing the growth projection trends for 5th and 6th grade math, comparing the 2015 norms to the 2016 norms. Both 5th and 6th grade math show higher growth projections for students at higher achievement percentiles in the 2020 norms vs. the 2015 norms, and the overall growth projection is flat, meaning students at lower and higher achievements showed similar amounts of growth.

All growth norms -- whether those norms depict changes in height, weight, or change in mathematics achievement -- are simply descriptions of typical and atypical behavior. They convey the patterns that have been observed in students across the country. Fairness is not a consideration in the development of norms. They describe what does occur, not what should occur or what ought to occur.

Why does this happen with 5th and 6th grade math in particular?

This pattern of "flat growth" has been found in the norms study for many years, but it is hard to answer why it occurs. It may be because 5th and 6th grade include the typical transition point at which most students transition from the 2-5 version of MAP Growth to the 6+ version. These two versions have very different content because they are aligned to the common core standards, which differ strongly between elementary and middle school grades.

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