Misuse of Grade Equivalents


Criticism regarding the use of grade equivalents dates back at least to 1977, when John Willis published this paper regarding the “total mindlessness” of the scores.   Yet countless special educators continue to use them in documenting strengths and weaknesses on their IEPs because, presumably, they are easier for parents to understand.   Unfortunately, what parents think they have understood is more often than not . . . not what they think.  This and the articles following are presented to assist practitioners in arguing for higher standards in reporting present levels of performance to parents.

One of the first national organizations to “sound off” regarding the misuse of these scores occurred with the issuance of a position paper in 1981 when the International Reading Association (now the International Literacy Association) issued a paper on the topic (link below).
IRA on grade equivalents 1981

The same year, Cecil Reynolds published this journal article on the fallacy of using grade equivalent scores two years below grade level as an indicator of a reading disorder (a common practice in many states at that time.)
.Fallacy of 2 years below grade level fro age (3)

Despite the criticisms, demand for grade equivalents remains mysteriously high.   This more recent publication by Metametrics  on The Hippocratic Oath and Grade Equivalents (undated, but after 2009)  illustrates the continued currency of the topic.

The problems intrinsic to the (mis) interpretation of both grade and age equivalents is not restricted to educational testing, either, as Pearson’s position statement on the Interpretation Problems of Age and Grade Equivalents within the context of Speech and Language services.