Understanding Educational Assessments part 2: academic testing

One of the services offered at Attuned Psychology is educational assessment for children. It is really important to me that parents and educators are provided with a solid understanding of the results and their real world implications for children, so that the assessment process is worth your investment.

Previously I described the results and implications of the first part of the testing process, cognitive or IQ testing. Now I will look at the other important component of a comprehensive educational assessment; that is, academic attainment.

Academic Measures
These measures are usually more self-explanatory and easily understood, and more familiar as tasks that a child may do at school on a daily basis. A full educational assessment will test a child’s achievement levels in spelling, reading and comprehension, and mathematics.

What is a ‘percentile’?
Sometimes scores are reported as percentiles, which is a way of comparing your child’s result to other children of the same age, based on the average scores of children tested at that age. A percentile is NOT the percentage of correct answers on the test.

A percentile rank of 50 means that your child performed better than 50 per cent of his/her peers of the same age. this would indicate that they are functioning at an age appropriate level. A percentile rank of 95 means that your child performed in the top 5 per cent of his/her age group.

These numbers can be helpful in understanding where your child’s skills are placed in relation to other children of the same age, and can assist with planning the delivery of curriculum content to the appropriate level for your child.

What is a ‘reading age’?
Sometimes scores are presented as an ‘age equivalent’ which is a way of comparing the child’s score to the age of student that usually achieves that average. For instance, if your child is 10 years of age and has a ‘spelling age’ of 13 years, this means that his/her skills are roughly equivalent to that of the average 13 year old.

This can be helpful in understanding the level at which your child may be functioning in a given subject area at school.

If your child is performing below what might be expected for a child of the same age, it is imperative to look at getting the right kind of support to fill the gaps in knowledge. If your child is performing above the rest of the class, then it is important that he/she is provided with work that will challenge and engage. This sort of individualised learning is invaluable in engaging and supporting children to fulfil their potential.

Getting the most out of the assessment
This is the sort of information that is included in all educational assessment reports that I write. I like to provide families and schools with all of the salient results so that their investment in the assessment process is valuable and beneficial.

I also offer a feedback session to families in order to explain the results face to face and allow parents the opportunity to ask questions or clarify any concerns.

But what use is this information to you as parents, your child and his/her teachers?

The most fundamental aspect of this process is being able to apply our understanding of your child’s individual profile of skills, needs, strengths and limitations to real world actions to support your child’s learning journey.

In my next article in this series, I will discuss the ways in which the information gained by a comprehensive assessment may be used by teachers and parents to help a child achieve their very best.

Rebecca Rossi, Psychologist


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