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School Climate

Normed Scoring for K-12 Student Surveys and Why It Matters

Sam DeFlitch
Sam DeFlitch
Normed Scoring for K-12 Student Surveys and Why It Matters



Student voice plays a powerful role in helping schools and districts create engaging educational experiences. By measuring student perceptions, districts can enact meaningful change across classroom engagement, growth mindset, and sense of belonging. 

Many districts turn to surveys to assess student experience. Panorama’s Student Survey, for example, is used by thousands of schools across the country. For over a decade, districts nationwide have relied on Panorama Surveys to elevate student voice on school climate, school safety, and the skills that students need for success in school and life. 

Now, we’re offering a revamped survey experience—one that’s highly actionable, efficient, and collaborative. A major part of this new experience is normed scoring: a research-backed scoring method that shows you how students responded to each topic compared to others at their grade level nationally.

In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into normed scoring—what it is, its key benefits, and why it matters for your district.

Table of Contents: 

What is Normed Scoring?

What are the Benefits of Using Normed Scoring?

What Does Normed Scoring Look Like?

The Best Supports at the Right Time

Normed Scoring in Action

Next Steps for District Leaders

Key Takeaways:

  • Student voice is essential for creating engaging educational experiences. Measuring student perceptions allows districts to implement meaningful changes in classroom engagement, growth mindset, and sense of belonging.
  • Normed scoring compares student scores to a national reference group. This method contextualizes individual student performance by showing how students fare relative to their peers at the same grade level.
  • Normed scoring provides a deeper understanding of student performance by comparing individual scores to class or grade averages. It also allows for reliable comparisons across different grade levels and topics, ensuring confidence in the analysis.
  • Additionally, normed scoring supports comprehensive assessment of strengths and areas for improvement, aiding in district strategic planning and school improvement. 

What is Normed Scoring?

Normed scoring shows how a score compares to the scores of a reference group. This method is used frequently in assessments; in Panorama's approach to normed scoring, we utilize our national dataset to show how students perform compared to others at their grade level. 

David Kowalski, Senior Researcher at Panorama Education, provides a brief overview of normed scoring: 


What are the Benefits of Using Normed Scoring?

Contextualize Responses 

Consider a student, Zoe, who has accurately answered eight out of ten questions on an exam. With Panorama's approach to normed scoring, we can see how Zoe’s score compares to those of other test-takers, such as students in her class or grade level. Now, we can put Zoe’s score into context—getting key information into both her performance and that of her class or grade level. 

Let’s say Zoe scored an 8/10 on the exam. Without comparing her score, we might infer that this is a low score. However, when we compare her score to others in her class, we see that most students in her class scored 6/10. So Zoe is actually performing quite better than her peers. Without the understanding of how Zoe compares to her peers, we are subject to making poor assumptions about student performance. 

Panorama’s approach to normed scoring takes student grade into account to measure how students score relative to peers. Through the use of appropriate comparison groups, normed scoring puts information in context, providing information that is not provided in other forms of scoring.

Provide Accurate Comparisons 

Another benefit of our approach to normed scoring is that it allows for accurate comparisons across grade levels and topics. This allows you to compare across topics and questions with confidence. For example, you can understand how scores across different topics within the same survey—such as questions on emotion regulation and sense of belonging—compare to each other. 

Panorama’s normed scoring feature is based on the largest national data set of its kind, with over one billion student responses to Panorama Surveys. When you use Panorama’s new Next Gen Survey Reporting, you can be confident that you’re getting an accurate, actionable comparison of student responses across a national data set. 

Inform Decision-Making Processes

Normed scoring supports a more complete picture of strengths and areas for growth across your system. This enables stronger comparisons across grade levels and topics to better identify areas for intervention or monitoring—so you can draw accurate conclusions about how to drive school improvement. 


What Does Normed Scoring Look Like?

Given these benefits, let’s look at how normed scoring plays out in an educational context. 

Let’s consider a district viewing third-grade vs. ninth-grade scores on sense of belonging. The district notices that the average topic scores for sense of belonging are higher for third graders than for ninth graders. Does that mean this district’s third graders are doing great and that something is troubling for their ninth graders? Does the district need to intervene for their ninth graders? 

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Not necessarily—and this is where normed scoring becomes incredibly helpful. Nationwide, third graders answer more positively on sense of belonging questions than ninth graders, so this is not an unexpected pattern for the district’s students. With normed scoring, we compare the scores of students to their peers. And we get a more complete picture of how they are doing—taking into account important developmental differences. 

In this example, we can see that even though this district’s third graders scored higher than the ninth graders on sense of belonging, they might be lagging behind third graders nationally. And the ninth graders, while lower in their historical scores, may actually be doing well relative to their peers. 

The Best Supports at the Right Time

Data plays a crucial role in determining where to deploy resources and intervention strategies. Using data from normed scoring unlocks the ability to ask—and answer—questions that put your students’ survey results into context. With normed scoring, your district can use data to explore questions like:

  • In which topic do we have the greatest percentage of students reporting strengths relative to their peers?
  • Are our seventh graders struggling more or less than our tenth graders with self-efficacy?
  • Knowing that some questions are easier to answer positively, which questions are students struggling with most across all topics?

Ultimately, being able to ask and answer these questions can provide your district with a more comprehensive understanding of the students you support. 

Normed scoring in Panorama's Platform. Demo data displayed.

Normed Scoring in Action

Now that we’ve established the benefits of using normed scoring, let’s take a look at what it looks like in the Panorama platform.

In Panorama, student scores are reflected on a 1-9 point scale and are sorted into one of three groups that indicate how those scores compare with those of their peers.

  • Growth opportunity: students in this group have the most opportunity to improve their SEL standing compared to their peers.  
  • On track: most students fall into this group and have responses that score closely to the average of their peers. 
  • Strength: these students reported SEL scores that exceed the average of their peers. 

Let’s look at an example of a survey question and its journey to the 1-9 point scale and percentile groups.

1. A student is administered a set of questions for each topic. Generally, a question will have five potential answer choices. In the below example, a student has answered 4 on a 1-5 point scale. 

2. The student’s response to the topic is normed against other responses in Panorama’s national data set—by grade level, topic, and school year.


3. Depending on the student’s score compared to others in the national dataset, the student is given a topic score that aligns with a particular percentile group. In this example, the student received a 6, meaning they are on the higher end of the “On Track” group or between the 23rd and 77th percentile nationally.


Next Steps for District Leaders

It's more important than ever to capture and analyze student feedback on school climate, safety, and the skills that students need for success in school and life. And it’s crucial that this feedback is accurate and actionable. 

With normed scoring—a key component of Panorama’s Next Gen Survey Reporting—our market-leading survey tools are now even more actionable, collaborative, and efficient. With Next Gen Survey Reporting, educators can link directly from topic summary pages to Panorama Playbook strategies—with each strategy filtered to improve that topic. Now, teachers and administrators can drive directly from viewing results to identifying tactics to improve scores.

Get in touch with our team to learn more about Panorama's Next Gen Survey Reporting, or download Panorama’s Student Survey to get an in-depth look at our research-backed survey measures. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of using normed scoring vs. percent favorable scoring?
Normed scoring helps put students’ responses in context, taking into account important variables like student grade, and helping educators understand how students are performing relative to their peers nationally. This type of scoring enables more accurate comparisons across grade levels and topics and is especially helpful when identifying areas for intervention and for progress monitoring over time. Adding normed scoring to percent favorable scoring provides a more comprehensive view of students’ responses.

While percent favorable scoring evaluates a student’s responses against predefined standards, normed scoring compares that data with others. Each approach provides different insights into a student’s response. When taken together, these scoring methods offer a more nuanced view of a student’s responses.

What specific steps should our district take after identifying areas for improvement through normed scoring?
After identifying areas for improvement, districts should develop targeted action plans that involve all stakeholders, including teachers, students, and parents. Consider using Panorama Playbook strategies, which link directly from survey results to practical interventions. Regularly monitor progress and adjust strategies as needed to ensure continuous improvement. 

How often should our district administer a student voice survey to get the most actionable insights?
It's recommended to administer a survey at least once per academic year to monitor changes and trends in student perceptions over time. Some districts may choose to conduct surveys more frequently, such as bi-annually or quarterly, to track progress and adjust interventions more dynamically. The frequency should align with your district’s specific goals and resources.


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