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The Total Score in Terra Nova

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I recently received my student's Terra Nova Scores and am concerned about the Language score in particular. His scores were as follows:

  • Reading: 64

  • Language: 37

  • Math: 57

  • Total Battery: 51

  • Science: 86

  • Social Studies: 88

My concern is of course his language portion but also his total battery. If you can explain what the "total battery" consists of or is representative of, I would appreciate it. Also, are there any exercises I can do to help my student improve in language esp. during the summer vacation months?

Please note the principal of my students school did mention that boys typically did score lower than girls and in addition there were concerns with the entire schools performance in the reading/language sections as a whole. He stated that there was a tornado warning and testing not only started later than planned but there was some antsy/anxiousness throughout the day for the students.

Lastly, he is scheduled to go into the sixth grade next and I do have the option to retain him as he was skipped a grade when he was in kindergarten (moved ahead to first grade).

Thank you in advance for your assistance and your time.

A: The Terra Nova is a standardized achievement test used to provide consistent, accurate, and objective information about students' achievement in various areas of the curriculum. Being a standardized test, standard testing procedures (with exact directions, time limits, and scoring criteria) ensure that testing conditions are the same for all students.

In the administration of the test, individual or group scores may be compared with a criterion or with the scores of other students in the class, school, district, or national norm group. Test results can also be compared over time intervals, which is one indication of growth for an individual or group of students. These tests determine strengths and weaknesses of a student and thus enable the school to provide academic intervention.

The average in scores is defined as 50 percent of students nationally, consisting of the 25th through the 75th National Percentiles. In this case, your son scored average in Reading and Math and below average in Language while above average in Science and Social Studies. The total score/battery is average. Total Score consists of Reading, Language, and Mathematics and does not include Social Studies and Science.

For language, the Terra Nova looks at Sentence Structure, Writing Strategies and Editing Skills. Sentence structure is an understanding of writing complete and effective sentences. Writing strategies is knowledge of information sources, outlines, and other pre-writing techniques while editing skills requires appropriate use of capitalisation, punctuation, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in existing text. Language activities should help him in these aspects. It would also be a great idea to discuss with his language teacher on areas of language that need attention and suggestions on how to go about it after school hours.

I am not sure how much the tornado warning may affect scores of children but unless the child in overly anxious, the impact should not be very huge. Additionally, he may be doing work ahead of his peers which may or may not affect his achievement. It would be better to speak to the school authorities whether to retain or allow him to continue to the next grade. Hope that has shed some light to your concerns. Good luck!


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