Stanines, Percentiles, and Grade Equilavents

Q. What are stanines, percentiles, and grade equilavent scores?


Stanine is short for standard nine. A stanine score ranges from a low of 1 to a high of 9; therefore, the name “stanine.” For instance, a stanine score of  1, 2, or 3 is below average;  4, 5, or 6 is average; and 7, 8, or 9 is above average. The stanine score shows the general level of achievement of a child—below average, average, or above average. In Virginia, parents who use a standardized achievement test for evidence of achievement must show that their homeschooled child has scored “in or above the fourth stanine.” The fourth stanine begins at the 23rd percentile.


Percentile scores allow you to compare one student’s scores with a group of students who took the same test. In contrast to stanines, percentiles show scores ranging from 1 to 99 and give parents a more detailed description of how their child compares with other students who took the test.  For example, if a student scored in the 69th percentile on a test, the student achieved a score that is higher than 69% of the other students who took the test. So, if 100 students took the test, the student in the 69th percentile scored higher than 69 students. This does not refer to the percentage of correct answers.


Grade-level equivalent scores are determined by giving a test, developed for a particular grade, to students in other grades. For instance, a 5th-grade test is given to 2nd- through 12th-grade students. If a 5th-grader received an 8th-grade equivalent score on a 5th-grade achievement test, this doesn’t mean the child is ready to do 8th-grade work. Actually, the score means that the child reads 5th-grade material as well as the average 8th-grader reads 5th-grade material. Grade-level equivalent scores are often misunderstood.


Stanines, percentiles, and grade-level equivalent scores all rely on measuring your students’ scores against the scores of a large group of students who took the same test. This other group of students, or the comparison group, may be composed of other students in your district who took the same test or of students from a nationally representative sample who took the same test earlier. A student’s test results can be more meaningful when you see them in relation to other students’ scores. You can understand the ways in which your child is similar or dissimilar to other students at the same grade level.

Be sure to review the Testing section on our website for more information on specific testing requirements for Virginia homeschool students.

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