The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) is designed as a group assessment measuring certain cognitive skills deemed important for successful learning. These skills are higher order reasoning skills involving analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The skills permit student learners to better understand the content they are learning, to better recall what they understand, to be more logical, to perceive relationships, attend to details, and to form generalizations and apply them to new content.
The OLSAT is used to identify students in need of special services within the school system, such as identifying students eligible to receive gifted and talented programming. A review of information available on school websites gives one the impression that there is little standardization as to which scores are used to determine qualification into talented and gifted programs. The target value or qualifying score varies among programs and states. Parents may receive feedback which refers to these scores:
The SAI score. The School Ability Index is perhaps the most frequently referenced score when discussing the OLSAT and entrance into gifted programs. The SAI measures one student in relation to other students of the same age. Some indicate that this score is the ‘same’ as an intelligence score. Others indicate that it is ‘similar’ to what has been called an intelligence score. There isn’t enough space here to discuss the debate over measures of intelligence. I’ll save that for another series of posts.
The publisher of the test describes the score in this way: “The SAI, with a mean of 100 and standard deviation of 16, is an easy-to-understand indicator of a student’s standing relative to his or her age peers.” The ceiling or highest score for the OLSAT is 150. The average score is 100. It’s the 50 points in between that make all the difference.
The score of 100 is the mean or average. A mean, by definition, is the center of the scores in a set of scores – or the point where the largest number of scores occur. The distance from that average point, or center, is the standard deviation. The further away from the mean or average, the smaller the number of occurrences or the less-average the score. The direction of the score, below or above the mean, determines the special services needed. Most frequently, the term ‘gifted’ is assigned to a student whose score falls 2 or more standard deviations above the mean. For the OLSAT, this translates into a score of 132 or higher.
Within the nation, we could expect student scores to occur in the following ranges:
Above 132 …. 2% of the population
116-132 ….. 14% of the population
84-116 …. 68% of the population
68-84 ….. 14% of the population
Below 68 …. 2% of the population
When schools set their benchmark or target numbers, I found most set at either 130 or 132, looking to identify the top 2-3% of the population of students who have taken the OLSAT. I did find several school districts with qualifying scores set at 127. Important for parents to understand is that a child scoring a 129, missing the cutoff point by just one point, does not need just one more right answer in order to move the score to 130. because the one point difference in SAI score represents several wrong answers.
Percentile Rankings: Oftentimes, parents are given scores that represent the Percentile Rankings, as the qualifying percentile. Percentile rankings correspond to the SAI scores. An SAI score of 100 translates into a percentile ranking of 50%. In the case of gifted program access, the percentile score qualifying a student for gifted placement is oftentimes set to 98% or above. A percentile ranking between 95% and 98% oftentimes qualifies a student for a more in-depth look, and a consideration of other information – achievement testing and/or teacher referrals. In the case of New York City schools, which has standardized gifted testing on the Otis-Lennon test, students are placed in gifted programming based on a blending of scores from the OLSAT and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA). The OLSAT score is weighted 75%, with the BSRA weighted 25%. These two scores, once weighted, are added together. A result of 95% or above qualifies the student for access to gifted programming.
Practice and skill building for the OLSAT: Resources we recommend for the OLSAT. [Link to a resource list via Amazon].