This article is intended only for customers and partners using the Assessment Series.
Students who take an assessment in the CommonLit Assessment Series will be designated a performance category, based on their scaled score for the assessment, of Below or Approaching Grade Level, On Grade Level, or Above Grade Level. This refers to the grade level of the test that the student took.
What do the three performance categories mean?
The three performance categories are: Below or Approaching Grade Level, On Grade Level, and Above Grade Level. To establish these categories, a panel of teachers for each grade discussed the literacy skills and abilities students would be expected to have at the end of the academic year based on the Common Core English Language Standards. Then, the panelists mapped these skills and abilities to ranges of scaled scores on CommonLit’s assessments. More information about this process can be found in the “How did CommonLit come up with the definitions for the performance categories?” section.
Given that student scores demonstrate their skills and abilities, students will fall into a performance category based on their score on each assessment. Students with very high scores will fall into the “Above Grade Level” category because their scores suggest that they have surpassed what they should be able to do at the end of the year for that particular grade level. Students who are marked as “On Grade Level” have demonstrated that they currently know what they should know at the end of the year. Students who are marked as “Below or Approaching Grade Level” may need additional support to develop the skills they should have by the end of the year.
It is therefore possible that a majority of students in a class might be below or approaching grade level at the beginning of the year on the pre-assessment, as they have a full year of instruction ahead of them to build up end-of-year skills.
How did CommonLit come up with the definitions for the performance categories?
For grades 3-12, individual student performance standard settings were conducted during the summer of 2022. Panels of teachers with diverse expertise, experience, and demographics were recruited for each grade to participate in a Modified Angoff standard setting workshop series. During the standard setting process, the panelists determined what proficiencies and skills students would need to have to be considered Below or Approaching Grade Level, On Grade Level, and Above Grade Level; they then created student profiles for each level of performance. Panelists used these profiles to complete a rating exercise to map student performance expectations for each performance group to an operational assessment. The results of this exercise were then used to determine how scaled score performance on CommonLit assessments aligns with the student performance categories.
What happened to the 4 performance groups from School Year 2021-2022?
In the 2021-2022 school year, CommonLit used students' percentile scores to divide students into 4 categories: very low performance, low performance, medium performance, and high performance. Because these categories relied on comparative percentiles, it was difficult to interpret if students were meeting grade-level expectations (if the majority of students were below or approaching grade level, then the "medium performance" category would include students not on grade level).
This year's performance groups are calculated without using percentiles and are therefore more actionable. Our new performance groups can better help teachers understand how their students are performing compared not only to their peers nationally, but also compared to expectations for how all students nationally should be performing. Teachers can used students' scaled scores to understand who in the Below or Approaching Grade Level group needs the most support.
Teachers can continue to use student percentile scores to group students. Last year, students who performed in the 0-10 percentile range had very low performance; 11-30 percentiles were low performance; 31-70 percentiles were medium performance; and 71-100 percentiles were high performance.