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Grade Equivalents

Every score has a purpose.  The problems with g.e.'s have been well documented in this and previous discussions, but it is not that there is something intrinsically evil with g.e.'s, but that they are often misused and easily misinterpreted.  Putting g.e.'s in the hands of teachers has been compared to putting an AK-47 in the hands of a child.  A fine instrument, easy to use (just pull the trigger), but generally you would want to have some control over where and when it was actually applied.

HOWEVER, that said, g.e's have an attribute that standard scores and percentiles do not.  If you use standard scores to document progress, you may easily discern a drop from one testing to the next.  In an adversarial situation, the parents will LOVE those scores.  Indeed, if you review the background material for Brody v. Dare Cty, an interesting due process lawsuit documented on Wrightslaw, the parents might even convincingly allege (to a due process hearing officer) that a decline in standard scores represents regression.  The results, if those scores are accepted as represented, can be catastrophic.

For example, in her "Letter to a Stranger"  the parent argued that the following data proved regression:

Regressed: 1.5 years of progress after 3 years of special ed.   (2.9 g.e. to 4.4.) Percentile Rank declined 12%

The Hearing Officer ruled for the parents, providing them with tuition reimbursement.

On the other hand, in HISD v. Caius, 2000, the court ruled that the school properly used grade equivalents rather than percentiles to document progress.   The school argued for the use of g.e.'s, and it won.  The 5th Circuit, in finding that the school system had provided FAPE, wrote "HISD employed the widely utilized and accepted Woodcock Johnson intelligence and achievement test to indicate Caius's academic progress. Caius's test scores showed the following changes from 1993 to 1995: (1) Math scores improved from the 1.7 grade level to 3.1; (2) written language improved from the 1.5 grade level to 1.9; (3) passage comprehension went from 1.7 to 2.2; (4) calculation rose from 1.4 to 3.3; (5) applied problems improved from 2.0 to 3.0; (6) dictation went from 1.6 to 1.8; (7) writing improved from 1.4 to 2.6; (8) word identification, basic reading skills, and letter identification rose from 1.8 to 2.1; and (9) word attack rose from the level of a seven-month kindergarten student to grade level 1.8."  It went on to say,  "From 1995 to 1996, Caius showed the following improvements: (1) Broad reading increased from 2.1 to 3.3; (2) word identification from 2.1 to 2.8;(3) passage comprehension from 2.2 to 3.9; (4) math from 3.1 to 4.4; (5) calculation from 3.3 to 5.0; (6) applied problems from 3.0 to 3.6; (7) written language from 1.9 to 2.9; (8) dictation from 1.8 to 2.8; (9) writing samples from 2.6 to 3.3; (10) basic reading cluster from 2.1 to 2.8; and (11) proofing from 2.3 to 2.6. Only word attack remained the same, at the 1.8 grade level."   In its decision, the court said, "Caius claimed that a child's percentile scores were the best measure of academic performance, while HISD argued that passing marks and advancement from grade to grade were sufficient indicia to satisfy the IDEA. And on this dispute the district court is correct that a disabled child's development should be measured not by his relation to the rest of the class, but rather with respect to the individual student, as declining percentile scores do not necessarily represent a lack of educational benefit, but only a child's inability to maintain the same level of academic progress achieved by his non-disabled peers."

Of course, since in Brody v. Dare, the sped teacher apparently admitted she did not know how or have the skills to teach reading, the issue of percentiles v. grade equivalents probably wouldn't have made any difference. But it could have.

Percentiles and standard scores are best for demonstrating relative weaknesses and strengths.  G.E.'s, on the other hand, are most effective when trying to document progress ("educational benefit" that is more than merely trivial.)