The National Percentile Rank (NPR) helps parents determine how their child’s testing performance compares with that of other students’. Of particular consequence are the NPR’s for Reading Total, Language (ELA) Total, Math Total, Social Studies, and Science – the five subjects referenced in WV code 18-8-1. However, the Complete Composite NPR may really be the more important to the parent overall. The composite is weighted, contains scores from all subtests in the battery, and is generally considered the best indicator of the student’s performance. For the WV law, the mean of the five subjects is paramount. But for the parent’s purpose, the composite scores (green arrows below) are more instructive.
The Core Composite, previously called the “Core Total,” can also be quite helpful. It is a weighted score based only on the “three R” subjects of reading, language and math, excluding the social studies and science scores. Homeschoolers often study history and geography more than is in the typical public school “social studies” course – which includes almost exclusively politically correct thought, urban and rural considerations, ecology, minority issues, and political/government issues. As a result, the social studies score does not always reflect the education and worldview of the typical homeschooled student. Likewise, science doesn’t always reflect the homeschooler’s course of study – which often centers on actual observational and experimental science rather than on evolutionary origins. That being the case, the Core Composite can be quite helpful.
But for county reporting, parents will still look at the NPR scores for the five required subjects. (See horizontal arrows below.) Like before, the average of those five scores will be taken. The resultant mean will then correspond to a stanine distribution.
The graphic below illustrates how the percentile ranks compare with the stanine score. Percentile ranks are the result of a distribution of scores on a bell curve. The bell curve is divided into 9 stanine ranks, each containing a range of percentile ranks. The 4th stanine begins at the 23rd percentile rank, which is the beginning of average. Therefore, the law’s new standard (within or above the 4th stanine) includes all scores in the average range.
So after obtaining the mean of the Reading Total, ELA (English Language Arts), Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science scores, that mean will fall within one of the stanine ranks. If the mean falls within or above the 4th stanine, the child is said to have made “acceptable progress” according to WV code 18-8-1. If it falls below but is improved from the previous year, it is still “acceptable.” If it falls below and is not improved from the previous year, the score is not acceptable by state code and remediation is required.
A score that often causes confusion is the grade equivalency (GE) score. A 3rd grader who has a 9th grade equivalency is doing well. However, that merely means that the 3rd grader’s performance on his 3rd grade material test is what would be expected of the average 9th grader on the same 3rd grade material. It does NOT mean that the 3rd grader is ready for 9th grade material! His GE of 9.3 does not mean that he is ready for 9th grade material because he was not tested on 9th grade material. It only means that he has a thorough mastery of the material covered on the 3rd grade test. Obviously, a high GE does not mean you should skip a grade or two (or six!). However, you should be quite pleased.
Now let’s use the Student Profile to help us with the scores on the Profile Narrative. The Student Profile gives us the total number of questions in each sub-area and the percentage your child answered correctly. So if the mathematics NPR is low, the Student Profile will help you know which math subtests caused the greater difficulties. Did your child do well with number operations, but bomb measurement? Then you know that measurement is what pulled the overall math score down.
Looking at these subtest areas relative to your child’s grade will also give you good information. Since NPR’s are comparison scores, you can sometimes determine that carelessness might be the culprit more than ignorance. For instance, a 6th grade student could get 3 out of 4 addition problems correct and get only a 40 NPR. That is because most 6th grade students can easily do addition, and so missing only one problem could earn a fairly low comparison score. But missing only 1 decimal problem may produce a higher 86 NPR. This is because, unlike addition, decimal problems are a more difficult concept for 6th graders, so correctly answering all but one could be a better performance than 86% of the norm group. So, if your child earns a lower-than-expected math total score, you might look at these subtests and see if their lowest scores are actually in the easiest subtest areas. If they nailed the harder concepts but messed up on the easier, that could quickly bring their overall score down, but the problem may be less about math and more about carelessness.
Hopefully, most of the scores you see will not be shocking. Rather they will be confirmation of what you see daily. We usually know if our daughter is struggling with math or if our son is not reading fluently. On the other hand, if your child is doing quite well with his daily work and understands the concepts, yet scored poorly on the test, this may indicate test anxiety rather than deficient mastery. Perhaps practice tests would be helpful. Or, if you think he is anxious about the testing/social environment, private testing one year to test the hypothesis might be in order. Then subsequently easing back into a group situation to gradually prepare for future college-prep testing might be prudent. If college is in the future, comfort with group testing is a worthy goal. Lastly, the attitude you put forth might make the difference in test anxiety. Are you making your child feel that his test performance is your measure of personal success? Does he dread testing and see it practically as punishment? Modeling a good testing attitude will go a long way in making your children feel comfortable with testing – and perhaps even look forward to it! (“I can’t wait for testing! Not only will we get a break from regular school, but I’m looking forward to going to Dairy Queen on Friday after we help clean up!”)
As you can see, the score sheets can help in many ways. We recommend that you also read the first two paragraphs of “Temptation, Truth, and Test Scores” to remind yourself of the purpose and strength of testing, because much more important is the character and heart of your child. Pray that you will model a heart of compassion and purpose as you interpret test scores and calmly use them to move forward in your educational planning. Compare with previous year’s scores and consider keeping an ongoing graph. Of course you want to identify the relative weaknesses. But rejoice in the strengths and progress! As the parent, keep in mind an eternal perspective. Teach your children how to learn from their mistakes and demonstrate diligence in the face of difficulty. This is definitely a learning opportunity for everyone involved.
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again… Proverbs 24:17
Regardless of your child’s scores, rejoice in the privilege you have to raise them, love them, and educate them for God’s glory!