MI Write's Newest Feature: National Normative Data


You’re at the end of a unit and you want to see what your students have learned. What do you do? The easy thing would be to give them a test. But that would only show what they know, not what they’ve learned. You realize that you probably should have started the unit with a pre-test to see where your students were before you taught the lessons. (Don’t worry; we’ve all been there!) As student growth is the goal, you need a marker at the beginning to have something to compare to at different points in the year.

How can I use stanines in my classroom/school?

MI Write has recently added a feature that will help give you an idea of how much your students are growing. On score reports for individual essays, in addition to the trait scores given by the PEG (project essay grade) engine, teachers can see national normative data that includes percentile ranks and stanine scores. These norms are most effectively used as guides for screeners for RTI, or benchmark-type assessments; NOT for day-to-day, prompt-to-prompt, or draft-to-draft comparisons. In the above example, assigning an essay before and after the unit would give you an idea of student growth for the unit.

Teachers can use the percentile ranks to determine where their students stand on a national level, while the stanines give teachers an idea of how to group their students for further instruction. These norms are also helpful to administrators who want to see how each grade level is doing at different points in the year.

Comparable conditions are the key!

To use these norms effectively, you need to set up comparable conditions. If you want to use benchmark essays, make sure that you choose prompts in the same genre. Whatever options you set up for the first essay should also be used in the following essays. For example, you want to use an argumentative prompt and for your students to have a timed one-and-done assessment. You’ll need to change the options to meet your requirements. Enable the timer for a 60 minute limit, disable essay drafts so that only one is allowed, and disable formatting and peer review as they will not be necessary.

What are they? How were they established?

Percentile ranks put students in a norm group with all other MI Write students in the same grade level, writing on the same genre. The percentile rank is based on the total score of the essay and compares to other students in the norm group. A stanine, or “standard nine” score, is a score from 1-9 and is directly related to the percentile rank. Stanines are derived from the division of the percentile ranks into nine groups that creates a bell curve distribution of scores (see chart).


Stanine chart


These norms were established by using a national sample of 750,000 students from 42 states. The responses were equally divided among the three genres, unequally divided in grades.

What do they mean?

Percentile ranks and stanine scores show you how one particular student compares to others in the norm group. They display the percentage of students who scored at or below a student’s score. For example, a student in 5th grade, writing an informative essay would be compared to other informative essays written by 5th grade students. This particular essay received a PEG score of 21.7 and the percentile rank is 73, meaning this student scored the same or above 73% of the other students in the national group. It also means that 27% of students in the norm group scored higher than this student.

Stanines are a quick and simple way to see how students are performing. Stanines 1-3 are considered below average and would require more support to get the students where they need to be. A stanine score of 4-6 is average, or on grade level. The top three stanine scores, 7-9, are considered above average. In the example above, that 5th grade student would have a stanine of 6 and would be in the average group.

Where can I find them in PEG?

School administrators have the ability to turn these on or off for their teachers. When enabled, students and teachers can both see these scores on the score report for any essay. Teachers can also see them in individual student performance reports. This is where teachers can see the progress of each student.

Now what?

Whether you want to check for growth over the course of a year or just a unit, you can use the national norms to compare data. Just remember to set up those comparable conditions and you’re ready to go!

To learn more about MI Write and national norms, contact us today!