Off-Level Testing

Children taking standardized test
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Definition: Off-level-testing is the administration of an achievement test that was designed for children in a higher or lower grade level than the one the children being tested are in. For example, if children in third grade are given an achievement test designed for fifth graders, they are participating in off-level testing. This testing can provide useful information about what a child has already learned, whether through school or through his own efforts.

It is important to note that these tests measure achievement, not intelligence.

This type of testing is done to better assess children's knowledge. Some children may not be ready for the work in the grade they are in and may get frustrated when they have to take tests that they perceive as too difficult. Therefore, they may be given a test meant for children in a grade lower.

How a child scores on the test will tell us about what he knows and may also tell us something about his abilities. A child at the end of third grade is expected to know most of what has been taught over the year. If the child scores very low on that test, and is given a test designed for second graders and still doesn't do as well as most second graders, that test tells us that not only has the child not learned what he should have learned in third grade, he also hasn't learned what most second graders have learned.

That could suggest some kind of learning disability.

This testing may be more common, however, to assess the upper limits of a child's knowledge. In other words, the tests are more often given to children in grades lower than the one the test was designed for. It is often used as a tool to identify children for gifted programs.

For example, if a child is in the third grade, and scores high on an achievement test designed for fifth graders, that child would be considered eligible for the gifted program, assuming that is one of the admission criteria for the school's program.

It is important to understand that because these are achievement tests, they aren't always going to identify the gifted children in a class. They simply identify children who have achieved, the high achievers. They are the high-achievers, who may or may not be gifted. Some gifted children are underachievers, so they may not do well on such tests. On the other hand, gifted children have a thirst for knowledge and learn on their own even if they don't excel at school. That means that while they may be getting poor grades, the amount of knowledge they have far surpasses that of their classmates as well as children one or two grades above them.

When used for the purpose of determining eligibility for a gifted program, those tests are generally given to the whole class at one time rather than to individual children one at a time.

They may, however, be given only to children with high grades since they are the ones so many school officials consider to be gifted.

Talent search programs, those designed for gifted children, often use this type of testing as well. Examples of tests used:

Also Known As: out of level testing and above level testing

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