Archive for 'Standardized testing'

Debunking standardized test results

By now, if you child took a standardized test in the spring, you should have the results back. Unlike a school test which gives either a letter grade or a percentage, standardized tests give several different grades. None of the numbers you see indicate a passing or failing grade. What do the numbers mean to you and your child if there is no pass/fail grade? You have to break down the numbers into meaningful information.


Understanding a norm-referenced test

The standardized test your child took is called a norm-referenced test. Norm-reference is a process that allows scores from all versions of a single test to be normalized into a meaningful score. For example if your child took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) test at the third grade level, and your child’s test was version B and another child in a different city took the same level test but had version A, the scores would be different. Some questions on one version may be somewhat more difficult than questions in a different version. In order to normalize (norm-reference) the scores so that they accurately reflect an even playing field, the scaled/standard score is used. Why Do Standardized Testing Programs Report Scaled Scores (Tan, et al,) explains in detail how testing companies derive scaled scores.


Your test results will include a page that shows the breakdown of each test component, and a composite score. For each part of the test, there are four scores; SS, GE, NPR, and NS. Each score has a different meaning.


SS is a standard/scaled score. This score gives the actual grade received on the test. You can use this grade to see if your child is making improvements from year to year. However, this score is only meaningful if you take the same test every year. There is a scale next to your score that shows the proficiency level of your child. Most kids test at a proficient level. Some will score above or below proficient. Use the sub-test scores to find areas where your child excels and where they need improvement.


GE is the grade equivalent score. It is shown as a decimal. This grade does not tell you the grade level for your child. For example, if your fifth-grader has a GE score of 9.2 in math, it means that a ninth-grader in the second month of the school year would be expected to get a similar score on the test your child took. If the score was 4.9, then it means that a fourth-grader in the ninth month of school would be expected to get the same score. Use the GE grade to see if your child is performing at grade level or not.


NPR is the national percentile rank. This score shows where your child ranks nationally as compared to others who took the same test. Most kids will get a score somewhere in the 50 percentile. A score of 50 percent means that 50 percent of all students who took the test scored at or below this score. A score of 25 percent means that only 25 percent of all students taking this test scored at or below this score. A score of 80 percent means that your child did better than 80 percent of all students taking the test.


NS stands for national stanine. This is a single digit number assigned to your child’s score. The higher the number–the better the score. Nine is close to a perfect score.


Still confused? The powerpoint presentation Iowa Test of Basic Skills: A quick overview of score interpretation, gives a really simple and visual explanation of how to interpret scores.


Using test scores

Test scores are useful in helping you determine where your child is academically. The sub-scores in math and English will show areas that need improvement and areas where your child does well. Use the scores to develop a curriculum for the upcoming year that is exactly tailored to your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Standardized tests are just a tool. Use them to help you find the best curriculum for your child.

Posted on 4 August '14 by , under Standardized testing, Testing. No Comments.

Testing time in Arkansas: Are you ready?

Want to test privately this year? I am a certified test administrator for the Iowa and Stanford tests. I can administer tests for your homeschool groups or I administer tests individually. Another option would be to get a group together for testing. Here is a link to my profile. My certification comes from BJU Press.


Arkansas requires that all students in grades 3 through 9 take a norm-referenced standardized test every year. Parents can take the state provided tests at no charge, this option requires that you register for testing and you must go to the state testing site on the day and time you registered for. If you miss that test, you will have to find another option.


Arkansas also allows parents to choose which test their children take. This is the private option. Using a test administrator like myself is one option for ordering and administering a test. Another option is to use one of the testing services listed in the information packet that should be sent out by the end of February. There is a fee for private testing, no matter which test options you choose. Parents must pay for the test and many times for the test administration.


Certain students with disabilities may be exempt from testing. You should carefully read what is required in order to be exempt. Most testing sites can accommodate minor test modifications.


Once testing packets are sent out by the state, I will update this page.



Posted on 17 January '14 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Standardized testing, Testing. No Comments.

Information about Common Core

Common Core is alive in Arkansas schools. Homeschoolers should be concerned because the standardized tests in 2014 are being aligned to the standards in many school districts. This means that homeschoolers will be subjected to Common Core standards, even if we don’t agree to teach them.

Here are some pdf documents that you may want to read in order to better understand Common Core.

Common Core Fuzzy Math

Common Core Standards

Common Core Topic Papers

Common Core FAQ


Posted on 18 December '13 by , under Common Core, Standardized testing. No Comments.

Gauging Success: Why Standardized Tests Miss the Mark

I am opposed to standardized testing for a number of reasons. It does not give an accurate picture of a student’s ability or progress. Some children, mine included, do not test well. For some reason when my youngest son knows there is a time limit on a test, he freezes. This is a talented and gifted child, yet if you were to look at his standardized tests score—you would think otherwise.


My youngest struggled with reading after I pulled him from a charter school. At that school, they grouped 1st grade students by reading ability. In his group—he was forced to read out loud. This was something that he was very uncomfortable with and when he struggled, the teacher allowed the other kids to make fun of my child. Now, entering the 8th grade, this still haunts him and I believe this is why he does not test well.


Standardize tests are supposed to show you where your child is academically as compared to other children of the same age and grade. But what happens to kids who have test anxiety? Their scores are low. Low scores can keep these kids from getting into gifted programs like the Duke Talent Identification Program.


So how should we judge a child’s progress? Use a record book system like 4-H. The record book tracks a child’s accomplishments, community service, awards, and projects over the course of five years. Why not apply this to the school system? The record book provides a much better picture of the child’s true ability. Although it would be difficult to use on a national level, maybe we need to get away from having a plethora of standardized tests that cannot be compared to each other and instead go to a record book format for tracking student progress. The record book should have a standard format, so it can be used by teachers even if a child changes schools.


Standardized tests just do not work. Public schools and the No Child Left Behind Act  created a “teach the test” atmosphere at most public schools. Teachers and administrators have been caught changing grades and some have been brought up on criminal charges. This is insane. What is needed is a way to accurately judge a student’s ability without having such high stakes.


This brings me to the topic at hand. If I ignore the standardized testing scores for my son, how do I judge where he is academically? He shows me in other ways how well he is doing. My two youngest children are very active in competitive shooting. One of the events, YHEC (Youth Hunter Educational Challenge), demands that the competitors take a written test as well as show mastery in wildlife identification, safety trail, compass and map skills, and mastery in shotgun, .22 rifle, archery, and muzzleloader.


My youngest, age 13, took 3rd place on the written test. Out of 190 kids in his division, he had the 3rd highest score. That is how I measure his success. He studied, he practiced and he performed well.


My next youngest is 18 and will be heading off to college in the fall. His goal is to become a biology specialist for Arkansas Game and Fish. He has plans to get a master’s degree in biology and possibly a doctorate. That is how I measure his success.


It is time to do away with a system that is not working. I would rather have my kids put together a record book highlighting their accomplishments over the last 5 years than have them subjected to standardized tests. Especially since the test results are arbitrary at best and they do not give you a good idea of where your child is academically—unless you have one of those rare kids who test really well.



Posted on 10 June '13 by , under Standardized testing. No Comments.

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