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The History of the Stanford Achievement Test

by Tanya Lee

The Stanford Achievement Test has long been used to evaluate kindergarten through twelfth-grade students' academic knowledge in comparison to all students at grade level in a nationwide sample. A student with a stanine score of 9 on the Stanford, for example, is in the top 4 percent of students at her grade level. A student with a stanine score of 1 is in the lowest 4 percent. The Stanford Achievement Test, while still widely used, has been losing traction as states develop their own assessment instruments, a trend that will likely continue as states align their curricula to Common Core standards and begin using the assessments designed to measure academic progress against those standards.

First Edition

The first edition of the Stanford Achievement Test was published in 1922 by World Book Company. It contained reading, spelling, arithmetic, nature study, science, history and literature assessments for grades 2 through 8. The norms for this version were revised in 1925 based on a much larger sample of students. The 1925 test also included a revised Manual of Directions.

The 1920s and 1930s

The test continued to be revised from 1929 to 1931, when it was expanded to include the ninth grade. Some other changes included the separation of the literature and history test into two separate tests. In the 1930s, a Guide for Interpreting was added to the administrator's manual.

1940 Revisions

The Stanford Achievement Test underwent a major revision in the 1940 version, when approximately 80 percent of the items were replaced. The 1940 revision was also normed based on the testing of approximately 300,000 pupils in 32 states. A random sample of nearly 51,000 tests was selected for norming the tests.

From the 1950s Through the 1980s

The revisions to the assessment during the 1950s and 1960s saw new tests added and the creation of several versions of the test at each grade level. By the time the 1964 edition was published, the test had evolved from one graded subjectively by teachers to one graded almost completely objectively. In 1973, the sixth edition of the test included more levels of the test, and in the seventh edition, published in 1982, an optional writing section was added but was later dropped in the eighth edition in 1990.

From the 1990s to the Present

According to the publisher, the ninth edition of the test, published in 1996, responded to significant changes in school curricula and the need to provide continuous assessments in the major skill areas. The tenth edition was published in 2003 and is the one used today. It is published by Pearson Education.

About the Author

Tanya Lee is a professional writer with more than 30 years experience. She has published extensively in the field of education and as a journalist, the latter in such publications as "High Country News" and "News from Indian Country." Lee holds a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images