Standardized achievement testing is an important part of my homeschool. We test our children every year to see how they’re growing academically. And as I mentioned in my post “How My Family Benefited from Standardized Testing,” we’ve found that standardized testing provides a lot of other benefits too.
Nevertheless, if you’ve never tested your child before, the test result PDF you receive on your BJU Press Homeschool account may be a little intimidating. You might find yourself wondering “What does it all mean?” and “What should I do with all this information?” Let me walk you through interpreting test results so that you can understand where your child is academically and how you can best help him or her in the future.
Interpreting Test Results
It’s important to understand that your child’s test results don’t compare him or her to other current homeschool students in a particular grade. Your child’s score is a comparison to a norm group. A norm group comes from a group of students in a particular grade across the nation—from both public and private schools. These students all took the same test at a similar point in their academic year.
However, keep in mind that the Stanford Achievement Test was recently re-normed so that your child is being compared only to students who attended private schools. This means that the average score on the current Stanford Achievement Test is going to be quite high.
National Percentage Rank (NPR)
If you are using The Iowa Test® (the test that my family uses), you will probably notice right away the national percentile rank (NPR) score for each subtest on the first page. The NPR score indicates the percentage of students who scored lower than your child. For example, if your child had a NPR rank of 89 in Social Studies, that would mean that your child did better than 89 percent of students who took that same Social Studies subtest. Since NPR rankings above 75 are considered above average, an 89 would be a very good score. Scores ranging from 25 to 74 are considered in the average range, and scores 24 and lower are considered below average.
So—hypothetically speaking—if your child scored an NPR of 92 on the Math Total, you could be very confident of his or her readiness to tackle some more advanced math concepts. But if he or she scored a 32, you would probably want to note the weak areas and possibly slow down on (or even re-teach) some of those more difficult concepts before moving on.
National Stanines (NS)
The single-digit numbers that you see on your test results are national stanines. Stanines are another way to communicate where your child is in relationship to the average. An NS score of 5 is average. Scores between 6 and 9 are considered above average, and scores 1 through 4 are considered below average.
Grade Equivalent (GE)
The grade equivalent score is perhaps the most confusing and the most often misinterpreted score in your achievement test results. What does it mean if your third grader has a GE of 8.7 in reading? It doesn’t mean that your student is ready for eighth grade work. And it also doesn’t mean that your third grader is reading at an eighth grade level. It only means that your child did as well on this particular test as an eighth grader would. High GE scores can be confidence boosters—they indicate that your child has mastered the material on the test. They don’t indicate what grade your child should be in.
Drilling Down to Spot Weak Areas
When you look at your achievement test results, you will want to look deeper than just composite scores. Be sure to check the breakdown of scores for each subtest to see if there are any problem areas. For example, let’s pretend that your child has a composite math score of 88 (a great score), but when you dig deeper into the report, you notice that the geometry score was actually only a 29. This is valuable information—now you know that your child probably needs some extra practice with those geometry concepts.
If you don’t understand what some of those breakdown categories are, or if you need some ideas for how to strengthen some of those areas your child is weak in, please call BJU Press Testing & Evaluation. They have some awesome, very knowledgeable staff members who would love to talk with you. You can also explore the various achievement tests they offer through Testing & Evaluation.