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How to Understand and Use NCE’s and Stanines
Some scores on an achievement test are less meaningful than others to parent educators and classroom teachers. The normal curve equivalent, commonly referred to as the NCE score, falls into this category.
If a score lacks meaning, it often lacks utility and is also considered irrelevant. Still, since NCEs are part of most achievement test reports, here are two things you should know about this score.
First, NCEs are similar to percentile ranks in that they rank your student’s score from 1 (low) to 99 (high). If you look at the sample report on our website, you will see that the NCE scores follow the NP scores as you look at the report from left to right. The NCE score for the Total score on our sample report is 50. Achieving an NCE of 50 is the only time the percentile score and this score are the same. When percentile rank scores are above 50, NCE scores will always be lower. The NCE score for Language on the sample report illustrates this. When percentile ranks are below 50, NCE scores will be higher. NCE scores for Reading and Math on the sample report illustrate this.
Second, NCE scores allow for “meaningful” comparisons (meaningful to statisticians primarily) between different batteries of achievement tests and between different tests within the same battery. The operation is complicated and I will not dwell on it here.
In the column to the right of the NCE scores are the Stanin scores. The name of this score comes from the fact that it ranks student performance on a standard scale from 1 (low) to 9 (high). A stanin score of 5 is in the middle of this scale and in our example report corresponds to a percentile rank of 50, indicating that a student’s performance is in the middle range. Similarly, a stanin score of 4 is related to a percentile rank slightly below average, as we see for Reading subtest. A stanin score of 6 is related to a slightly above average percentile rank, as we see for Language subtest.
The value of stanin comes from the fact that, because it is expressed as a single digit number, it is easy to draw quick conclusions about a student’s performance. Stanine’s 1s or 2s suggest that a student had trouble with the content of the test. Stanine’s scores of 8 or 9 suggest a high degree of mastery of the concepts covered. Keep in mind, however, that stanins are less accurate than percentile ranks.
Thanks for reading,
Curt Bumcrot, MRE
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