Entries in Testing (4)


What do those achievement test scores really mean?

Unlike intelligence test which are designed to measure ability or potential, achievement tests are designed to show what content knowledge a student has or has not mastered. Achievement test questions address content areas that include math, reading, social studies and science. Some tests may further divide these areas into sub-areas like math computation or language mechanics. Mastery, indicated by correct answers, requires both factual knowledge and the ability to apply knowledge to solve problems.

Norm-referenced tests compare a child’s performance against the performance of a large group of students of similar age and  background called the norm group. Norm-referenced test yield scores that are expressed as a percentile rank, on a  scale from 1 to 99. The average level of performance achieved by the norm group is set at the 50th percentile. Raw scores—the actual number of right and wrong answers—are adjusted mathematically to yield percentile scores which should not be confused with the similar-sounding term percentage, discussed later.

What do you do with your child’s scores from a standardized achievement test? Reporting scores to parents is often the weakest link in the chain of educational testing. Scores may be described using a variety of specialized terms that can be difficult to understand or, worse, misinterpreted. One of the most misunderstood concepts is the grade equivalent score.   

Especially when your child is gifted, you may see test results that say your fifth grader is “reading at the ninth-grade level.” What does this phrase mean? The most common response is that your students reads as well as the average high school freshman.

This interpretation is incorrect. Remember, the test was made up of reading matter appropriate for fifth graders. There was no ninth-grade reading material on the test, so the test cannot determine whether a child can read ninth grade material. But the fifth-grade material can be read by a ninth grader, who will read more quickly and with greater understanding than the average fifth grader. So the correct conclusion is that your fifth grader reads fifth-grade material as well as the average ninth grader.

Another source of confusion is the distinction between percentage and percentile. A percentage score represents the number of correct answer, times 100, divided by the total number of test questions. If 40 of 50 questions are correct, then the student got 80 percent correct.   

By contrast, a percentile score tells how your child compares to the children in the norm group, regardless of how many questions were actually answered correctly. The same 80 percent (40 or 50 correct) can lead to different percentile scores, depending on the performance of the norm group. If half of the students in the norm group got 40 or fewer questions correct, this score would be expressed as the 50th percentile. But if 90 percent of the norm group got 40 or fewer answers ,the same score would be expressed as the 90th percentile. The highest possible percentile is 99th, indicating that all 99 other raw scores of the 100 would be equal or lower.  

Achievements test results may seem arcane at first glance, but properly understood, they provide important information about your child’s abilities. Tests can show how much of a curricular area your child has mastered, and results may point to areas of strength and those in need of attention. The more you learn, the easier it will be to make informed decisions about your child’s education future.

Michael S. Matthews, Ph.D.
(reprinted from Duke University Talent Identification Program) 


Standardized Testing Starts April 19th

In the world of academia, “ratings sweeps” month is around the corner. Kindergartners through Seventh graders at The Wood Acres School will demonstrate their academic prowess by taking the Stanford 10 Achievement Test and the Otis Lennon Ability test in late April.

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A Note From The Woods

With another wonderful year of great learning, experiments, concerts, field trips, celebrations and so much more under our belts, it’s time to wish all of our students and families a summer filled with sun, fun and lots of reading! Whether your child enjoys stories read to them or loves to read to you, reading is an activity for all seasons.

As the chapter closes for the 2008-2009 school year, we are already busy planning for your students to return to Wood Acres in August. Faculty and staff use the summer months to refresh, enhance professional learning, order curriculum, deep clean classrooms and most importantly, prepare to welcome students back to a great little school tucked away in the woods.

With an ever improving caliber of curriculum, talented teaching staff, and engaged students, Wood Acres has again done extremely well on our annual standardized testing. Your child’s individual results (for Kindergarten through 6th grade) are enclosed in this envelope. Please carefully read the backside of your child’s summary as it contains great explanations of testing “lingo” and help with data analysis. Celebrate success, plan for areas of improvement and remember that this is just one window into the performance of your child this year. Additionally, your child’s final evaluation or report card is also enclosed and provides you with a great overview of academic performance throughout the year. Wood Acres is the place to learn… and our test scores and report cards prove it! Well done!

What we cannot put into this envelope are the memories, giggles, smiles, tears, “ah has”, and powerful sentiment that come from spending 180 days with your child. Each year we see your families through personal celebrations and personal tragedies; academic highs and learning challenges. We have seen your child grow in inches and shoe sizes; in mind and in spirit. We are as proud of them as you are! Thank you for such an amazing year of teaching and learning the Wood Acres way. May your summer be full of family fun, reading, sand, water, and SPF #30! See you in August.

Judy T. ThigpenHead of School


Everything you ever wanted to know about standardized testing... (but were afraid to ask!)

In the world of academia, “ratings sweeps” month is around the corner. Kindergartners through Sixth Graders at Wood Acres will demonstrate their academic prowess by taking the Stanford 10 Achievement Test and the Otis Lennon Ability test in late April. At Wood Acres, we are always pleased to say that test preparation for our students is done each and every day with quality teaching and monitoring of student progress.

Results are shared annually with parents and are also used in-house to fine tune curriculum, shape educational plans for students, and celebrate the corporate success of our unique learning environment. These standardized tests are just one of the many formal and informal assessment tools that Wood Acres faculty utilize to monitor student progress and develop and modify curriculum. Informal assessments are often qualitative in nature and typically provide the best snapshots of the young learner in progress. Wood Acres would never trade a trained mature, professional set of watchful teacher eyes for a #2 pencil and a bubbled-in test.

Parents often ask with great anxiety, “How can I help my child do well on standardized tests?” The best preparation is a student’s attendance at Wood Acres! During testing week, logistics such as a good night’s rest, a healthy, nutritious breakfast as well as smiles, hugs and encouragement from those at home provide a winning combination for a student to do his or her best!