Explanation of "Stanford 10"
standardized test scores
"The Principal's Corner"
Dear New Hope Parents,
This is a re-issue of the letter I sent in May. Now that the "Stanford 10" scores are available I thought it would prove useful to have the content of this letter at your fingertips. Our scores were outstanding, among the very best in the 18 year history of New Hope Academy! Once again, we qualify to apply to be a Blue Ribbon School, which means that our class test scores place NHA in the top 10% of the schools in the country!
In grades K-8, NHA's class averages place us in the 90th Percentiles or above for Schools across the nation. 7 of 9 classes fall in this category in reading, and 6 of 9 grades in math, with 5th grade barely missing the mark by only 1/10 of a percent. These are truly phenomenal scores. You can be very proud of your children, and of their school.
Over the years we have come to realize that the test scores can be confusing to some parents, and some misconceptions exist. Mrs. Cohen has included a brief explanation of the test results, but I wanted to address the whole topic of testing, including how the school views the significance of the test scores and the usefulness of the tests.
We have chosen to use the Stanford Achievement Test for the past 18 years. It's the oldest and most widely used of a half dozen or so nation-wide standardized tests, which virtually all do the same thing. ITBS, CAT, Terra Nova or Stanford all give us an idea of how our students are scoring in comparison to students throughout the entire country. Though each test is slightly different in its approach, no test is ideal and all contain bias elements, especially regarding particular curricula and methodologies.
Also, at New Hope we do not spend time "teaching to a test," or giving much time to practicing how to take standardized tests. Granted this may place our younger children at a bit of a disadvantage, but we feel our time can be better spent "learning how to think and learn." So we simply teach our curriculum for the year and assume that the children will have learned what they need to do well on the test.
Though we have chosen to use the Stanford, it does have certain weaknesses in regards to our curriculum. For example in second grade, the test is administered orally by the teacher, and the children are not provided a written copy of the test questions. This limits the use of the strategies and clues they've been taught to use regarding how to tackle math word problems (such as circle the word sum and put a plus sign above it) and reading comprehension. This skews the test results against our children doing as well as they could if they were given the questions in writing. It really ends up being a listening test rather than a true math test.
Also, reading in the U.S. is primarily taught with a whole language approach and NOT a phonics based curriculum. Even though our second graders are superb readers, they usually do not score as high as we would expect simply because the tests are geared towards "sight-readers," who are taught to memorize words rather than to decode them. For this reason we have to realize that the test scores are only one indicator of a school or child's success, and at times the scores reflect a limitation in the testing, not the student's lack of ability or skills, or the quality of the curriculum.
Also, how a test is required to be administered affects its outcome. In grades K-2 the Stanford Test is administered with the teacher reading EVERY question aloud, and waiting until all students have marked their answer booklet before moving on to the next question. Beginning in third grade, students are given the test booklet, general directions are given, and the students read the test questions themselves, moving through the test at their own pace, independently. So beginning in third grade, children who lose focus or have trouble with reading comprehension or math word problems may find the test much more difficult than in previous years. We wish to note that the scores of children with diagnosed learning differences are excluded from the class averages. In grade three some children have yet to be identified for learning differences or ADHD. Generally standardized testing is one of the main indicators we use to help us to ascertain the need to recommend such testing.
Standardized testing is one useful tool to further assess the school's programs as well as individual students, but not an accurate assessment to try to evaluate the value of a program, a teacher, or a student's learning based solely on one test that may be affected by many variables. One use of the test is if we find that across the board our test scores are lower than we would like in a particular subject area, we may examine new curricula from several publishers to see if a change is in order.
Also we want to be careful because test results can be misinterpreted or invalid conclusions drawn from them. Interpreting scores takes some knowledge of scaling. For example, students and classes receive a stanine score, which is a scale of 1-9, with 5 representing the national average. New Hope has consistently scored a school-wide stanine of a six or above, for 18 years in a row. This is considered to be quite exceptional. A stanine score should not be confused with a percentile score. For example, in reading, this year our average stanine in reading was a 6.8 school-wide, which in fact translates into our average student scoring at the 78th percentile. This means that our students did better than 78 percent of students nationally. For a class or school-wide average this is quite high, and actually puts our school in the top 10% of the schools in the country, and qualifies New Hope to apply to be a Blue Ribbon school for grades K-8.
I've heard parents erroneously say NHA should score a 9th stanine, but schools do not fall in this category. Schools do not exist with a nine stanine. A 9th stanine is the top 3% of the students nationwide. Which would mean practically all students in the school would have to fall into that category. Even TAG programs aren't that strong. Of course we have some students who do average a 9 overall, but we have children of all ability levels, which must be averaged together.
I hope the information has been informative and will be useful to you when you receive your child's Stanford Ten results. If you do have other questions please contact Mrs. Morrow or Mrs. Cohen.
New Hope has applied for a capital improvement loan to complete all the final repairs on our boiler system, along with the myriad of other tasks we need to accomplish over the summer including painting the school exterior, upgrading bathrooms, upgrading electrical and fire systems, adding sump pumps in the lower level, and completing excavations to waterproof lower level exterior walls. When you return in the fall New Hope will be even better! Keep us in your prayers and send us your friends and family who are looking for a good school. Also, "Congratulations Graduates!" We'll see you again in the fall. May God bless each of you.
Principal Joy Morrow