Student Projection

Interpreting the Data

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no testing in the spring of 2020, so the projection reports changed as follows:

• All projections assume the 2019 average schooling experience.
• Projections for grade 4 math and ELA use two predictors rather than three.

As you work with the Student Projection reports, it's important to view the data with the concept of probabilities in mind. These reports do not provide predictions of how a student will perform on future assessments. Instead, they provide reliable indicators of how the student is likely to perform if the student makes average academic growth in the time leading up to each assessment. This is an important distinction that affects how projection reports are interpreted and used. The projections are not intended to be self-fulfilling prophecies. Rather, they're meant to provide critical information about students' academic needs so that educators can plan programs, instruction, interventions, and enrichment opportunities to maximize each student's learning.

Interpreting the probabilities correctly is necessary in order to use the data to inform instructional choices. It can be helpful to think about the way we interpret the probabilities in weather forecasts. If the forecast says there's an 80% chance of rain today, you would probably take an umbrella as you leave the house. By doing so, you take appropriate action based on what's likely to happen. In other words, the probability informs your actions.

Student projections should be used in much the same way. If we know that a student has an 80% probability of reaching at least the selected performance level, we know that the student is likely to succeed in scoring above that mark. Similarly, if we know that a student has a 20% chance of reaching the selected performance level, we would likely consider the student to be at risk of not reaching it. In response, we would probably provide a sustained intervention throughout the school year to increase the student's chances of success. Students with such different probabilities have very different academic needs.

Taking action based on students' projection probabilities can affect their academic outcomes. If a student's projection report indicates a low probability of success, and educators respond by providing additional support and interventions, the student may outperform the projection.

What do we mean by low probability? The truth is, there are no set thresholds for determining which students are at risk for not reaching the selected performance level or benchmark. However, a 50% probability is like a coin toss in that it could go either way. With that in mind, students with probabilities below 50% are certainly at risk. But how far above 50% do we need to go before we feel confident in a student's likelihood of success? Again, there is no set threshold, but these guidelines can be a helpful starting point for considering how to interpret the probabilities.

Student projections are based on each student's own testing history and on how students in the most recent prior year available performed on the assessment. This model determines the relationships between all students' prior assessment scores. By considering how all other students performed on the assessment in relation to their testing histories, the model is able to calculate a projection for each student based on their individual testing history. For example, if we are generating projections to math, we look at the students who have taken the math assessment in the prior year. The model will then determine relationships between these students and the students receiving projections for math. If the student whose report you are viewing makes as much growth as those academically similar students made, on average, his performance on the selected assessment is likely to be similar.

This raises the question of how much growth the student is likely to make in the current school year. If the student experiences less than average growth, the student is likely to fall short of the projection. However, if appropriate and effective instruction, supports, interventions, and enrichment opportunities are provided, and the student makes more than average growth as a result, he is likely to meet or outperform the projection.

Finally, projections are not intended to be used solely for the purpose of identifying students who are at risk for not reaching proficiency. They can be used for a wide range of purposes with a wide range of students, from low-achieving to high-achieving. Some additional uses for projections include:

• Placing students into courses
• Placing students with teachers
• Identifying students who need a sustained intervention
• Identifying students who would benefit from enrichment opportunities
• Planning for differentiated instruction in the classroom
• Planning for students' college readiness

When using projections for any purpose, it is important to use them along with other data and information you have about the student.