Assessment Terminology

This month my elementary kiddos brought home their end of semester exams scores. For only being one page, there sure were a lot of scores and information to weed through. As parents, we usually are left to decipher a lot of information on a daily basis about our children’s school performance. I often feel like I am reading between the lines and figuring things out on my own. Asking your child’s teacher is a good bet; Googling terms is helpful too! However, it’s also nice to have all the information in one place to refer back to when needed.

That being said, behold, here is some terminology for your reference:

  • Percentile Rank – statistically speaking, it’s the percentage of scores in that frequency distribution that are equal to or lower than it…..what? LOL Let’s try that again. It’s basically how your child performed based on how everyone else performed. For example, if your child performed in the 75th percentile, they performed as well or better than 75% of the people that took the test.
  • Grade level equivalence – this represents the grade level norm for a particular grade and month. Let’s say your 5th grader performed at a 10.5 grade level equivalency. This means that their performance equal to how an average tenth grade student would perform when given the same questions.
  • Standardized tests – this is a term for a test that requires all participants to answer the same questions in the same manner. It is then scored in the same way, which then allows for comparison between test takers. For example, STAAR is a standardized test. The IOWA assessments are standardized as well.
  • Criterion or curriculum based assessments – these are tests that your child’s teacher, or school district, creates based on the curriculum that they are learning. Let’s say your child’s science class just spent three weeks learning about atoms. At the end of the atom unit, the teacher or district would create an assessment based on the concepts taught. These types of assessments are considered criterion based assessments, meaning that they evaluate how much a student knows about a given topic. With these assessments, the purpose is to know whether the student performed well or poorly. Basically, did they learn the information they were taught during that period at school?
  • Norm-Referenced assessments – in norm referenced assessments, a student’s performance is compared to other individuals that have taken the same assessment. These types of assessments are “normed” on a different populations in order to determine an “average” score. Examples of norm-referenced assessments would be the SAT, GRE, or an IQ test. Some standardized tests are norm referenced assessments, but not always.

So, hopefully everything is clear as mud now. As we said before, there is a lot of information to decipher in order to figure out whether or not your child is making gains at school. If you ever need assistance understanding your child’s individual education program (IEP) or evaluation report, please feel free to reach out to us; we’re here to help!

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