What is a Grade Level Equivalent score?

A Track My Progress Grade Level Equivalent score (GLE) represents the the grade and month for the average student who received the same scale score as the student in question.

The GLE score is expressed as a decimal number with the number on the left representing the year of the grade level and the number to the right of the decimal representing the month. For example, when a student has a GLE score of 3.2 in Track My Progress, this means that the student scored as well as the average student at the second month of third grade.

If the student who received a GLE of 3.2 is in first grade this GLE score by no means indicates that the student is ready for early third grade school work. The GLE of 3.2 indicates that this grade one student did as well on the Track My Progress assessment as the average student who is in the second month of third grade. Explained a different way, the GLE of 3.2 means this grade one student can solve first grade math problems or read first grade passages as well as the average third grade student in the second month of the school year.

What a Grade Level Equivalent score is not

A GLE score is NOT an indicator of the grade level of curriculum for which is a student is ready.
A GLE score is NOT an indicator of the total level of curriculum that a student has mastered.
A GLE score is NOT an indicator of the grade to which a student should be assigned.

In the example above, the first grade student who has a GLE of 3.2 is not necessarily ready for early third grade work, has not necessarily mastered all standards in grade levels up to 3.2, and should not necessarily be accelerated to a placement of third grade.

The word “equivalent” in the term Grade Level Equivalent means the grade level of the average student who would have done as well as this student faired on these particular test questions. The term equivalent does not mean the equivalent grade level to which the student should be assigned or has attained mastery. This can be best understood when we remember that Track My Progress did not assess the student on all content, skills and standards at all grade levels up to the GLE score.

An easy way to remember the meaning of a Grade Level Equivalent score

When a student receives a GLE of 3.2 (for example) it indicates that the student did as well on the exact test questions in this test event as the average US student (50th percentile) in the second month of third grade would have done if given these same test questions. A good way of keeping a GLE score in perspective is to drill down into the data to see the actual grade level of the questions that the student experienced.

Appropriate uses of Grade Level Equivalent scores

GLE scores are useful in providing a quick indicator of how well a student did on a particular test. Sometimes the scale score can be too abstract to be meaningful or useful to someone not conversant with assessment terminology. A percentile score can also be a step too far removed from the every day of instruction and learning. And a performance category score can give a general indicator of how a student faired on a test but not always to the degree of doing well or not doing well. The GLE score brings the student’s performance on the test down to a level that is more concrete than some of the other scores.

If we are discussing a group of second grade students and we can say that a particular student did as well on these test questions as the average fifth grade student, that can be a more meaningful statement than saying 87th percentile or scale score of 640. While it does not mean we will immediately promote that student to fifth grade, it does mean that we need to discover what is the appropriate level of challenge for this student as she is likely above grade level.

The Grade Level Equivalent score can also be useful in discussing a student who is not doing as well as her peers. If we are discussing a group of fifth grade students and Track My Progress informs us that one student did as well on the test questions as the average second grade student, then we know that this is a student of concern and we need to investigate further where the student’s level of mastery is and what needs to be done to bring her closer to grade level peers.

Yet another appropriate use of GLE scores is quickly scanning and determining that a list of students are at or above grade level. If we are checking in on a group of fourth grade students at the end of the Winter test window and see all students are at or near GLE scores of 4.6 (fourth grade, sixth month) we know these students are where we might expect them to be.

These appropriate uses of GLE scores can be useful as you advocate for students who are behind their peers or for students who are well ahead of their peers, or even to help reduce anxiety over student progress when you can show the GLE scores are at or above the current grade level and month of the school year for the students in question. When used carefully and appropriately GLE scores bring a dimension of reality that percentile, scale, or performance level scores sometimes fail to do for some audiences.

Limitations of GLE Scores

It is vital in the use and discussion of test scores to communicate the scores to decision makers and parties of interest in a meaningful and technically accurate manner. We can not use GLE scores to assign students to grade levels or as an indicator of curriculum that has been mastered. Additionally, GLE scores are ordinal scores which means they are not equal interval scores (such as scale scores). As with all ordinal scores, we cannot add, subtract, multiply or divide them. We also can not compare the amount of growth in GLE years and months from one grade level to another because those increments of progress are not equal. For example, we can not say that a student made more progress in second grade (10 months of progress) than in first grade (8 months of progress) because the amount of progress represented by a month is different at each grade level. This is where scale scores are ideal because they are based on equal intervals.

Because of these limitations we do not recommend discussing or releasing GLE scores to those unfamiliar with Track My Progress unless the scores are accompanied with appropriate documentation or discussion to ensure they are made sense of in a meaningful, useful and appropriate way.