As a school psychologist, one of my roles is to communicate testing results to the team (i.e., school staff, parents, and the student). When we start talking using “jargon” words such as “standard score,” we are assuming that the team understands what norm-referenced scores are. As a general rule of thumb, can an eighth-grade student truly understand what you are saying?
When I report out to the team, I start with discussing what and why did I assess each component. Let’s use reading and my dog, Reggie, for an example.
“Reggie was first found eligible for special education and related services under the category of Specific Learning Disability in the area of Reading back in third grade. The word learning in the term learning disorders has two meanings: learning in early development and later learning of academic skills. Every learning disorder affects a particular kind of early learning that undermines the acquisition of precursor skills necessary for academic learning. The purpose of the current evaluation was to assess his progress in reading and identify, if any, which type of early learning is impaired.
The word learning in the term learning disorders has two meanings: learning in early development and later learning of academic skills. Every learning disorder affects a particular kind of early learning that undermines the acquisition of precursor skills necessary for academic learning.
We worked together to break reading apart, and I assessed each fundamental component of reading (basic skills) and how it translates into the end goal: comprehension. The first component was assessing his ability to decode words in isolation. Why is this important? If students are unable to decode words, they cannot apply other reading strategies or comprehend what they read. Based on the current evaluation, Reggie was fluent when reading words in isolation.”
This makes sense: no jargon, no test names, no scores. However, sometimes we want to say that their performance fell within the Average range. Having relatable examples and visuals help. For people to understand what “Average” is and why the spread of scores seems so large, I like to use the average height example.
“What does Average mean? Let’s think about the average height for males is 5’9”. Most males are about that height. If we were to see someone 5’7″ or 6″, we wouldn’t think much about it. If we were to see someone 5’5″, we wouldn’t necessarily call them short. If we were to see someone that was 7′, we would probably call them tall.
When I talk about “average” or scores falling within the Average range, it means where most people fall in. “Average” is a score of 100, which is at the 50th percentile (this is your average, 5’9″ male). Since “average” is a group of scores, most people fall between 85 and 115. It’s not until we see below 85 when we start to say things like “Below Average,” which would be similar to seeing a 5’2″ male.”
Having visuals (like the one below) makes this explanation so much easier for others to follow along.
If you have access to technology during meetings, an interactive visual is also helpful for people to visualize the scores (just like the one below).
For a limited time, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers site for this freebie!
Update April 10, 2019: I added another tab for those who use standard deviations of 10!