The Significance of Average Scores in Special Education Testing

A baseline score can help educators make evaluations

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An average test score is the sum of all the scores on an assessment divided by the number of test-takers. Public schools rely on average, below average or above average test scores to identify how well a group of students learns. In some cases, students may be compared to their peers in the school district, county or state.

With the rollout of the Common Core State Standards, which established a common set of academic guidelines for states across the country, students may more frequently be compared to their peers nationally.

But other times, school officials distinguish average students from others to see who's on grade level or how well an individual child performs in school compared to classmates on nationally normed tests.

In special education, average test scores are particularly useful in standardized evaluations and in tests designed by teachers. Educators determine the average by adding a set of numbers and dividing the sum by the total number of numerals used in calculating that sum. Anyone who's been graded on a curve likely knows the concept well. Teachers and specialists can use averages to determine the "middle" group of test-takers.

Statistically, about 68 percent of any large group of students will score within the low average to high average range on most tests. The exact average score itself reaches the 50th percentile. So how do educators proceed once they've identified the average?

How Educators Use Average Scores

Teachers and specialists may use averages to monitor the rate at which the class is learning the material.

Teachers also use averages to estimate where an individual student's scores place in relation to the rest of the class. This is especially important for students with learning disabilities. Educators may also use averages to measure how an individual students' abilities rate on tests used to diagnose learning disabilities.

Alternative Names for Averages

Sometimes educators and analysts use other terms for the word "average." Rather than say "average," they refer to a mean or the 50th percentile. You might have learned about these terms in math class. They may be used interchangeably with the term "average."

Examples of Averages

Want an example of an average? See if you can figure out the mean test score with the following information. Suppose six students scored 72, 75, 78, 82, 84, and 92 on a test. To calculate the average, add the test scores together and divide the sum (483) by six. The average score would be 80.5. See, anyone with basic math skills can determine an average.

Wrapping Up

If your child scores below average on a standardized test, don't panic. A number of factors could have produced this result. But if you find out that your child has learning difficulties in a subject area, it's important to get the child the help needed. Early intervention can prevent your child's struggles from worsening.

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