Working paper

Estimating student growth on psychological and social-emotional constructs: A comparison of multiple scoring approaches


By: Megan Kuhfeld, James Soland


A huge portion of what we know about how humans develop, learn, behave, and interact is based on survey data. Researchers use longitudinal growth modeling to understand the development of students on psychological and social-emotional learning constructs across elementary and middle school. In these designs, students are typically administered a consistent set of self-report survey items across multiple school years, and growth is measured either based on sum scores or scale scores produced based on item response theory (IRT) methods. While there is great deal of guidance on scaling and linking IRT-based large-scale educational assessment to facilitate the estimation of examinee growth, little of this expertise is brought to bear in the scaling of psychological and social-emotional constructs. Through a series of simulation and empirical studies, we produce scores in a single-cohort repeated measure design using sum scores as well as multiple IRT approaches and compare the recovery of growth estimates from longitudinal growth models using each set of scores. Results indicate that using scores from multidimensional IRT approaches that account for latent variable covariances over time in growth models leads to better recovery of growth parameters relative to models using sum scores and other IRT approaches.

The final version of this paper is available at:

Kuhfeld, M., & Soland, J. (2020). Avoiding bias from sum scores in growth estimates: An examination of IRT-based approaches to scoring longitudinal survey responses. Psychological Methods. Advance online publication.

See More
View working paper

Related Topics