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Measuring Up

Achievement tests are a great way to track academic growth from year to year. The scores provide lots of helpful information for planning your school year without making it necessary for you to absorb it all at once. Where do you start? At the very beginning—the overall scores are usually listed at the top of the page, near the student's name.

There should be four columns of numbers since your student's score is compared four different ways:

  • NPR (National Percentile Rank)
  • NS or Sta9 (National Stanine)
  • GE (Grade Equivalent)
  • SS (Scaled or Standard Score)

Interpreting scores is simple if you look at just one set of these numbers at a time. Although the SS is usually listed first, we recommend starting with the NPR (National Percentile Rank) that may be listed as NPR or just as PR, depending on which test was used.

The NPR ranks a student's performance against other students of the same grade. It shows the percentage of students your child out-scored. For example, if your child has a 64th percentile rank, it means he did better than 64 percent of the students to whom he was compared. This is much better than having only 64% of the questions correct! (The average student will usually rank 40th or higher.)

Stanines (NS or Sta9) are the “shortcut” to interpreting scores. This score has a scale of nine (notice the name—“stanine”), with three ranges:

  • 1-3 LOW
  • 4-6 AVERAGE
  • 7-9 HIGH

Be aware when interpreting the GE (Grade Equivalent) that this is a frequently misunderstood score. Let's start with what it isn't. It is not a grade placement. The GE simply tells you that your student received a similar number of points to those scored by students of a particular grade.

If the GE is higher than your student's current grade, it indicates how thoroughly he understood the test content. If your student is finishing 5th and scored a 7.4, then he has results similar to those of a student halfway through 7th grade. But the only way to tell if he's ready to study advanced material is to test him on advanced material.

If the GE is lower than your student's current grade, it can help to indicate how far behind the student is. In this case, you will want to go on to examine the Skills or Clusters to find out which specific test content was the problem area. A low math score doesn't mean you have to repeat all of math—it may mean that only one skill (like division) needs some review.

All of these scores (NPR, NS, GE) are derived from the SS (Scaled or Standard Score). Basically the SS is the number of learning points the student earned from his correct answers. The higher the test level, the harder (and more valuable) the test questions are. The SS should go up each year as your student moves to harder material. And just like his physical growth rate, his educational growth rate may fluctuate but it shouldn't move backwards.

There are many simple ways to improve performance in specific areas. We have included some helpful suggestions on page 4 of the Guidelines for Test Interpretation brochure, under “Applying the Results.” You will find a link to this brochure on your My Tests page.