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Gifted Assessment and Academic Testing
There is a difference between Gifted Assessment and Academic Testing (sometimes called proficiency or standardized testing). Academic testing will determine where your student is academically, it is not an indicator of giftedness. This page is about Academic testing.

Gifted Assessment will often be a combination of Academic testing and I.Q., (Intelligence Quotient) or it will be primarily based on IQ testing. Having a child tested solely to assign a number to his/her abilities is not really a good idea. The best kind of measure of giftedness includes both I.Q. and Academic tests, as well as other relevant tests. These can help provide a greater understanding of the child’s overall abilities. See our page about Gifted Assessment & IQ Testing. for a further understanding of I.Q testing.

About Academic Testing Tests You May Encounter
Assessment Lingo Elementary & Middle School Tests
High School Level Tests Standardized testing resources

Issues Regarding Academic Testing in the Public School System

Assessing your student at home

See our page about Gifted Assessment & IQ Testing
Homeschooling a Visual Spatial?

Check out our "homeschooling teens" page for more PSAT, SAT and ACT information.

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About Academic Testing
There are as many different opinions about academic testing as there are homeschoolers. Many people object to standardized testing. Hopefully this page can help you decide how you feel about academic testing.

Let's start with a definition:

as-sess ,v.t. 1. to estimate officially the value of (property,etc) for taxation. 2. to determine the amount of (damages, a fine, etc.) 3. to evaluate: to assess one's efforts.
The next word in my dictionary was
as-set, n. 1. A useful thing or quality.

The interesting definition to me was number 3. Actually the next definition is the real comment. In this age of standardized testing, how can one really measure one's efforts? One of my favorite topics is No Child Left Behind because of the element of required "assessment" of students and teachers. There's a "catch 22" for you! In the state where I homeschool, we have to send proof that our students show improvement each year and we have three choices in order to do that. One choice is the standardized test, the next is to have our portfolio assessed by a state certified teacher and the third is a method that both the parent and the superintendent agree on. Well, if you're dealing with a middle school age student that prefers Quantum Physics to Earth Science and Wheelock's Latin to English Grammar, you're kind of in a weird place, especially when none of these choices sit very well with you in the first place.

In our homeschool we look at Standardized tests as a necessary evil that measures someone's idea of some subset of knowledge the specific age group should know. We also know that one day we'll take the SAT College entrance test, so I administer a CAT-5 every year for 2 reasons. 1. so my student knows what a standardized test looks like 2. to satisfy my curiosity that he could play that game if he needed to. Lame reasons, but that's what we do. In this age of standardized testing I thinks it's better to be the informed player on the sidelines than the ostrich who doesn't even pay attention to the game in the stadium.

Read an excellent article on the Side Effect Lessons of Standardized Testing by Ann Lahrson Fisher.

An Interesting Find: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest)
Works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.


Studies on homeschoolers who take standardized tests are few and far between. In 1999 Susan and Larry Kaseman wrote an interesting article entitled "HSLDA Study: Embarrassing and Dangerous" that outlines why participating in surveys designed to quantify academic ability among homeschoolers, using the subset that takes standardized tests, is a bad idea.


Assessment Lingo - The Language of Standardized Testing
The language used in conjunction with standardized testing is mind boggling - especially if it is language you do not see everyday. In my opinion, it is language that is designed to confuse parents into thinking that there are "experts" out there who are better than they are in assessing their children's needs. Granted in some cases, "experts" need to be called in, but in the case of standardized testing, language should be precise and clear for parents to understand. There is nothing more frustrating to a parent than to receive standardized test results that have to have a page of explanation describing what the numbers mean. But this is structured world of public and private education these days thanks to "No Child Left Behind" and other means to assess school and teacher performance.

This section attempts to decode some of the "lingo" you might encounter in dealing with standardized testing.

Norm referenced test
A norm-referenced test is a type of test, assessment, or evaluation in which the tested individual is compared to a sample of peers who also took the same test.
Criterion referenced test (CRTs)
Criterion referenced are intended to measure how well a person has learned a specific subject. CRTs usually are administered to determine whether a student has learned the material taught in a specific grade or course.

Developmental Tests
Determine developmental readiness. Administered at Kindergarten or 1st grade.

Intelligence Tests
The two most commonly used for gifted assessment are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children® (WISC) and the Stanford-Binet.
These tests measure Intelligence quotient or IQ. The Stanford-Binet has a higher range and is the test of choice for highly gifted children.

[Read more on IQ Testing ]

Standardized AKA: academic, achievement or proficiency) Tests
A standardized test is an assessment that has been devised from a sample of primarily public school students of a certain grade and age in a particular area. This kind of test generally includes sub-tests to measure a student's math and reading levels, and may include sub-tests on science, social studies and more specific areas such as spelling, grammar, problem solving.There are 2 kinds of standardized tests. 1. Norm referenced 2. criterion referenced

Diagnostic Tests
Unlike standardized tests, diagnostic tests are criterion referenced. This means that the test items and goals are determined according to a fixed set of requirements. Each test is scored based only on the student's own performance regarding his or her grade level requirements.

Raw score
This is the number of questions answered correctly. This number is converted into the norm-referenced scores that are used to calculate all other scores.
Composite score
Combines two or more subtest scores to create an average or composite score. For example, a reading performance score may be an average of vocabulary and reading comprehension subtest scores.
Percentile Ranking
The relative standing of the student when compared to other students of the same grade, with the majority of students scoring near the midpoint of the 50th percentile. This number is useful when comparing a student's performance in a particular area relative to other students. For example, if the student is ranked 90th percentile, it means he scored better than 90% of the students in the National norming group -- or peers who also took this test at this grade level.
This score represents from a low of 1 to a high of 9, with each interval representing approximately equal units of ability. Scores 1-3 represent below average, 4-6 represents average ability and 7-9 are above average.
Grade equivalent (GE)
This score is obtained by calculating the average performance of students tested in a given month of the school year and is expressed in terms of grade level and school month. A score of 12.9 on a grade 9 level test means that the tested student performed the same as an average student in grade 12.9 who took the same level test. A grade equivilant score does not indicate the student has master the material for that grade level. A GE that is 2 or more years above or below the grade level for the test means that the student is well above or below the average.
Scaled score
These scores represent approximately equal units on a continuous grade level-independent scale ranging from 001 to 999. These numbers are useful for showing growth and change over time within the same subject matter.
Standard Scores
Range from 55-145, with average test performance scoring 100 at each grade level. These scores are normalized and are useful for showing growth and change over time within the same subject matter
Content Skills Performance Levels
These scores show how well a student performed on broad categories of questions within a section.

Issues Regarding Academic Testing in the Public School System

Are Your School Records Private?
by Amy Cortez - Editor The Eclectic Telegraph
If you are a student at a private school or a public school you probably ought to know that your records are not really yours. This holds true for homeschooled students in most states in less you take care of this little detail. A little item called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows a school to release personal informational items such as: your name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance to pretty much anybody, including the military...[read on]

If you choose to have your student test through the public school system, you need to recognize that his scores are not private due to a little number our government did on us called FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

In the United States, if your child has been through any kind of testing in the public school system, you are entitled to copies of the full results, including IQ / standard scores, percentiles, age and grade equivalent scores, and much more. Sometimes this information is offered, sometimes you may need to cite this federal law to get them. You are also entitled to keep some of that information private. But by the very idea that your student is part of the school system, his information is public record. Privacy only comes if you are homeschooling and stay on top of the records you allow to become public.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."

  • Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
  • Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.

Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

  • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
  • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
  • Accrediting organizations;
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
  • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, "directory" information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school [ more on FERPA].


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