It’s important to prepare your student to take a standardized achievement test, but understanding how to interpret the results is just as important. Knowing the following testing terms will help you understand your student’s strengths and weaknesses. You will also find suggestions for your child if he does not perform well on the test.
Raw Scores (RS)
A raw score is the number of items answered correctly on a given test. Raw scores by themselves have little or no meaning. The averages of original raw scores are called the “Norms.” Norm-referenced test scores compare your child’s raw score to the norm group. Next, your child’s raw scores are converted into percentiles, grade equivalents, and stanines.
Let’s say your child receives a score at the 75th percentile. This means that he did as well as, or better than, 75% of those kids in the norm group. It does not mean he got 75% of the items correct. Percentiles run from 1-99. There is not a 100th percentile because a child can’t do better than himself.
To rank percentiles, one might say that your child is having great difficulty with a skill if he only scores in the 1st to 10th percentiles. He is having difficulty if he falls within the range of the 10th to the 30th percentiles. His understanding of a skill is somewhat below average if he falls between the 30th and the 40th percentiles. Average understanding of a skill is between the 40th and 60th percentiles. Good understanding falls between the 60th and 70th percentiles, while very good understanding is between the 75th and 90th percentiles. Excellent understanding of a skill would place your child between the 90th and 99th percentiles.
If your child receives a “54” on an item, it should be read as 5.4, or 5th grade, 4th month. Take caution! This is the most misleading type of score. If your 2nd grader gets a 5.4, it does not mean your child is ready for 5th grade. It just means that an average 5th grader would have scored as well on the same test. It also lets you know your 2nd grader mastered his material very well and answered most of the questions correctly.
This term comes from the combination of the words “standard of nine.” It rates your child’s achievement on a scale from 1-9 based on a coarse grouping of the scores. In general, a stanine of 1, 2, or 3 indicates below-average achievement. A stanine of 4, 5, or 6 indicates average achievement, while a stanine of 7, 8, or 9 indicates above-average achievement.
Of all the numbers explained above, the percentile ranking seems to be the best indicator of how your child compares to others in the norm group and of whether or not your child is having difficulty with a particular skill. In my opinion, these scores are best used to find your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This is easy to determine by looking at the percentiles.
Things to Consider if Your Child Scores Poorly
What do you do when your child scores low, but above the 23rd percentile? Or low in just one or two areas? A low test score can mean that the child simply didn’t remember what he was taught or that you never taught the material that was tested. Maybe you didn’t feel the child was ready for some of the material. These tests do not allow for the “readiness” philosophy to which many of us adhere. Most college courses on testing teach that no important educational decision concerning a child should be made on the basis of one test.
There is always the possibility that your child is a poor test-taker. This is where an evaluation can be very helpful. However, if your child is college bound, you will probably want to continue to teach your child test-taking skills and then try the standardized test again sometime. These are the tests your child will see for college entrance and he needs to know what he is doing.
Another area to consider when interpreting low scores is the particular circumstances of the test day. Was your child sick or upset about family problems, or was there an undue amount of test anxiety? The test is also a measure of your child’s physical and emotional condition on that day. So, if the child took this same test tomorrow, he could have different scores. Sometimes it is very easy for us as moms to put too much pressure on our children even if we don’t intend to. In one sense, we are being evaluated more than our children. How about telling your child that this is a test to see how mom is doing as a teacher, and that the results will let you know where more work is needed! This takes the pressure off him.
Remember that the test is a measure of only the material that is on the test. For instance, a test which tests third graders for multiplication skills, assuming that all third graders would have such skills, will be hard on the child whose parents plan to teach him multiplication in fourth grade.
Most importantly, when reacting to low scores, we need to remember that scores have nothing to do with a child’s innate worth. Your reaction, positive or negative, will influence your child’s sense of self-worth and anxiety on future tests. Tell your child that you will try to find the reason for the low score and help to improve the weak areas. Be sure to include praise for the strong areas. Remember, you are the best judge of what your child knows. Your evaluation of this, coupled with the test results, will give you a more complete knowledge of your child’s abilities.
According to Dr. Ruth Beechick, “The real test is life! As Christian homeschoolers, your goal will be realized only as your children show the beneficial effects of home education in their adult lives.”
If, after taking all of the above into consideration, you feel you really need more guidance and accountability in your homeschool, consider enrolling in a correspondence school. In this way you can retain all of the advantages homeschooling has to offer, while gaining the assistance and perspective of a professional staff.