The Stanford Achievement Test is a multiple-choice battery of subtests designed to gauge student achievement in reading, mathematics, writing, spelling, listening, science and social sciences for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It is a norm-referenced exam that compares the national test results of children of the same age and grade. To interpret test data, you must go through the score reports.

Home Reporting

There are three achievement reports available to parents: a home report, a student report with clusters of data for each subsection, and a student report with narrative. The basic home report provides a learning snapshot of the student’s strengths and needs, gives general information about the child and school district, and lists a national percentile ranking and a narrative description for each subtest. The student report with clusters gives a brief narrative summary of the student’s performance results and specific information about the subtest area skills tested by reporting in terms of clusters labeled above average, average or below average. The final individual student report is called a narrative. This report gives information about what is tested in each content area, how the student performed in each of these areas, and instructional suggestions for improvement. Information is given in raw scores, the actual number of correct answers; scaled scores, statistical adjustments to raw scores; national percentiles; and national grade equivalents.

Interpreting Percentiles

A percentile score refers to the distribution of raw scores. If the test has 100 questions and 60 percent of the scores fall below the raw score of 75, then the score of 75 is at the 60th percentile. If one of your child’s subtest scores was at the 60th percentile, then he did as well or better than 60 percent of the children who were tested, but not as well as 40 percent of the total number of children tested. A national percentile indicates that the norming group was taken from a national sampling while a local percentile score means the norming group was of local origin. On the Stanford, the percentile scores are usually reported from national samplings, with the indication of whether the score was determined using spring or fall test data.

Deciphering Grade Equivalents

Grade equivalents are found in norm-referenced test results and are based on a 10-month school year and the grade of the children being tested. If a sixth-grade student takes the test in May and receives a grade equivalent score of 6.9, it can be concluded that the student is performing in the average range of all tested students; he has performed on the sixth-grade, ninth-month level. If a student in fifth grade receives a 9.9 equivalency score, it doesn't mean she's reading at the ninth-grade level. It means she obtained the same score as an average student in the ninth month of the ninth grade had that ninth-grade student taken the fifth-grade test. Grade equivalents are used to compare a student’s performance with that of the test’s national average sample.

Understanding Stanines

The word "stanine" is the combination of the words standard of nine. It refers to a score being placed on a scale from one to nine. The first three scale numbers are considered below average, the middle three are considered average, and the last three numbers are considered above average. If a child has a stanine of 5, it's an indication of average achievement.