SBG in AP Statistics (3) – Research Paper

The latest issue of the Statistics Education Research Journal (May 2011) has an article titled “The Impact of a Proficiency-Based Assessment and Reassessment of Learning Outcomes System on Student Achievement and Attitudes” by Michael A. Posner (Villanova University). To quote from the abstract: “This research compares a student-centered, proficiency-based assessment and reassessment of learning outcomes (PARLO) system to traditional assessment in a college-level introductory statistics class.”

Sounds like SBG – does it not?

The author’s justification for such a system is that “[e]ven those who dispute the need for alarm about grade inflation agree that students should be evaluated on standards rather than some normal curve reflecting the performance of those who happen, by choice or coincidence, to be sitting around them that semester.”

The components of the PARLO system are:

  • Define learning outcomes
  • Assess the outcomes using proficiency-based scoring (rather than numeric grading)
  • Provide opportunity for reassessment

Sounds like SBG – does it not?

Regarding reassessment, the author created two variables: “proportion resubmitted” (proportion of times a student resubmitted the assignment when they did not achieve mastery the first time) and “delayed proficiency” (the number of times the student received a proficient or better score only on the second attempt divided by the number of times the student received a proficient or better score).

The research primarily compared the results of the students enrolled in the PARLO group (n = 30) to those in a control group (n = 31). The results referred to the scores of the students on a CAOS test (Comprehensive Assessment of Outcomes in Statistics) and on a common final exam.

Among the conclusions were these:

  • Students had a more positive attitude towards statistics in the PARLO class than in the Control one
  • Students who achieved proficiency on the second attempts showed equivalent performance on the final exam as those who achieved proficiency in their first attempt

Interestingly, the author finds  “no differences between experimental groups … on the CAOS test or on the final exam.”  This is followed by a lengthy discussion basically saying the results of such a comparison are sensitive to how this proficiency system is set up, introduced, provides feedback, and is graded. In other words, implementation is key.

Sounds like SBG – does it not?


One response to “SBG in AP Statistics (3) – Research Paper

  1. Michael Posner

    Note – I am the author of the paper you mentioned. Yes, the PARLO system is a form of standards-based grading or mastery learning. As part of the NSF grant that we got to test this system out in 9th grade algebra classes (through a randomized controlled trial), we have created a PARLO tracker system. If you are interested, send me an email and we can talk more about it –

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