What are Age-Standardised Tests?
What are they?
SATs tests are standardised but not age-adjusted. This means that the raw score (the actual marks) are recalculated into a standardised score using a formula. In the case of SATs papers, the testing authorities issue a table which converts raw scores to standardised scores. The standardised score then allows scores from one year to be compared with previous years. It also allows both parents and teachers and the education authorities to see where children have scored relative to expectation.
Why are SATs tests not age-adjusted?
The real answer is we have no idea, they should be.
The difference in maturity between a child born in early September (the oldest children in their class) and those born in late August (the youngest children in their year) can be enormous. At this age, if SATs papers were age-adjusted then the difference between the two in terms of maturity and development could be as high as 9% even at 10/11 years of age.
Age and maturity are a crucial driver of performance at this age. Older children are generally better able to concentrate and deal with exams, they are more confident, they have a wider vocabulary, better reading skills and all these attributes mean they are better able to do well in SATs.
What problems can manifest themselves concerning the lack of age adjustments in SATs?
While standardising the results allows schools and the authorities to compare apples with apples when it comes to performance year to year, by not age-adjusting the scores they risk not helping younger children who are disadvantaged by their age.
It is not unusual for children to compare themselves to each other and in the SATs process children tend to know where they sit in class in terms of performance. The reality, however, is that some younger children have their confidence knocked from an early age by the failures in the system when it comes to age adjustment.
Some parents with children of this type very successfully put them back a year, although this is often frowned upon by the system. Children who are put back a year can go through a really positive change as they suddenly move from being the youngest, smallest, weakest, most immature to being amongst the taller children, stronger children, more mature and stronger performers.