Show and Tell for Parents
Search Site: 
Parents Teachers
By Susan Darst Williams
Parental Involvement
Ages & Stages
Coaching Your Child
Discipline & Safety
Health, Nutrition & Fitness
Homework Helpers
Curriculum & Instruction
Teachers & Teaching
Other School Staff
Special Learners
School Management
Finance & Taxation
Government & Politics
Private Schools
Choice & Charters
Learning on the Go
Community Involvement
Education Heroes
Bright Ideas for Change
Site Map

Parental Involvement Lite

Parents, Kids & Books

Great Books for Kids

Character Education

Writing Tips


Wacky Protests

School Humor
Home | Purpose | Ask A Question | Subscribe | Forward | Bio | Contact | Print

Testing        < Previous        Next >



Understanding Test Scores: Rubrics, Etc.


Q. When I get my children's standardized test scores home from school, I'm at a loss to understand what they mean about how they did.


You're right; there's a lot of jargon in testing and assessment these days. Let's take a whack at some definitions:


Norm-referenced tests compare an individual child's performance to that of some other, larger group. Your child's ranking will be shown in relation to the group. The "norm" is the average for that test group. Such a test will tell you how your child compares to similar children on a given set of skills and knowledge. But the score only reflects the student's knowledge of that particular set of questions, and only serves as a snapshot of how much your child knows and can do as a whole. Scores on norm-referenced tests indicate the student's ranking relative to that group. It helps to know something about the norm group and at what grade level the questions were worded to make your child's score more meaningful to you. Typical scores used with norm-referenced tests include:


         Percentiles. The percentile indicates the rank of the student compared to others of the same age or same grade. The higher the percentile number, the better the student did in comparison to other students. A percentile of 25, for example, indicates that the student's test performance was as good as, or better, than 25 students out of 100. But that means 75 out of 100 students did better. Remember, these are not percentages, but percentiles. So if your child's score is 92, that doesn't mean he or she only missed eight out of 100 questions. It just means that he or she got more answers right than about 92% of the other kids who took that test. That's why it helps you to know a little about the other students who have formed the "norm." Are they suburban kids in your part of the country? Or urban kids back East? For a while, California students were subjected to dysfunctional Whole Language reading instruction more than other parts of the country, and their test scores dropped to nearly the bottom; comparing your child's scores on a test that included a lot of California students might make your child's score look better than it really was.


         Stanines. Stanines are groups of percentile ranks, dividing all scores into 9 parts. The largest number of individuals fall in the middle stanines (3-7).


         Standard scores. These indicate how far above or below the average (the "mean") an individual score falls, using a common scale, such as one with an "average" of 100. Standard scores also take "variance" into account, or the degree to which scores typically will deviate from the average score. Standard scores can be used to compare individuals from different grades or age groups because all scores are converted to the same numerical scale. Most intelligence tests and many achievement tests use some type of standard scores. For example, a standard score of 110 on a test with a mean of 100 indicates above average performance compared to the population of students for whom the test was developed and normed.


         Age/Grade Equivalent scores. Some tests provide age or grade equivalent scores. Such scores indicate that the student has attained the same score (not skills) as an average student of that age or grade. The score will indicate the grade level and the month of the school year approximating the test results. It doesn't necessarily mean that the student has the same skill set as a student at that stage of schooling, just that the score is the same as the typical student at that stage. Again, if the norm group is a good one or one full of struggling learners, it would be important to know in order to make an accurate interpretation.


         Rubrics: These are numerical scorecards that act like a protocol or grid for use in coming up with scores for various types of assessments. Let's say a piece of writing is being evaluated for six different elements of writing, from "voice" to "conventions." Each of those six areas might have a possible score of 0 to 10. The six sub-scores are averaged for the final score. It helps teachers see areas in which a student might be extra strong, or need extra help. Here's a comprehensive link library all about rubrics:


Homework: For more about interpreting test scores, see:





By Susan Darst Williams Testing 05 2008

Testing        < Previous        Next >
^ return to top ^
Individuals: read and share these features freely!

Publications: please contact to arrange for reprint rights to these copyrighted news stories and features.


 Links to Learn More 

 Enrichment Ideas 

 Nebraska Schooling 
 Humor Blog 
 Glimpses of God 
Copyright © 2023
Website created by Web Solutions Omaha