The Relationship Between the HSPT® and Other Standardized Tests

Parents and teachers often ask how well HSPT® compares with other eighth grade standardized tests. In many validity studies, the correlations between HSPT® and other standardized tests such as the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, Stanford Achievement Test and the STS EDSeries are very high – in the 0.70s to 0.80s, where 1.00 is perfect. The usual interpretation for these high correlations is that the HSPT® is measuring the same content as these other tests. However, at times HSPT® scores may in fact be lower than the elementary and middle school standardized test scores. The lower HSPT® scores seem to be related to differences in the norming population. The HSPT® norms are based on student populations that intend to complete high school and continue on to either two or four year college. But the typical standardized test is normed on a sample representing the entire grade population, about 1/4 to 1/3 of whom will not graduate from high school.

We are also asked how the tests students take in high school compare with the HSPT®. Once again, when we have conducted validity studies, the correlations among the HSPT®, PSAT, SAT, and ACT are quite high, even though the tests are taken two or more years later. The correlations are typically in the high 0.70s to high 0.80s. When other standardized high school achievement batteries are compared with HSPT®, the correlations are also as high. The interpretation of these correlations is that the tests are measuring much of the same or the same content.

Throughout our long history, we have routinely conducted comparisons with other tests to ensure that our data show the same kind of quality and predictive validity so that customers can continue to rely on HSPT® for placement, remediation, and scholarships.

If you have further questions, please let us know so we may assist you in further understanding of HSPT® results.

Related: HSPT® Interpretive Manual (download) This manual is included witha school’s reports. it is a guide to understanding HSPT® scores and drawing conclusions about student performance.

CIP – an Effective Tool for Early Childhood Screening

When screening young children to identify special medical, psychological, or educational needs, consider our Comprehensive Identification Process (CIP). As with other preschool screening instruments, CIP was created to assist educators with early detection of special needs for children aged 2-6. The predictive validity of CIP shows that a relatively high percentage of children who receive the recommended treatment after diagnosis are categorized as normal by kindergarten, and require no further treatment. The CIP is also an economical way to quickly screen large numbers of children and receive results which identify those who are above the needs more help score. CIP may be administered by trained paraprofessionals in the home or in an educational setting. For more information on the CIP, call 1.800.642.6787. CIP is also available online for purchase.

A Good Education is the Best Preparation for HSPT®

I once received an irate letter from a teacher who had bought a test prep book to prepare her students for our High School Placement Test (HSPT®). The letter indicated that she’d found many errors in the test prep book as well as misstatements about HSPT® and she asked for a refund. Since STS does not endorse or publish any HSPT® test prep publications, we were unable to assist her. But her negative experience with an unauthorized book underscores the continuing problem of test prep product proliferation.

As more and more parents, students and teachers seek out test prep materials, HSPT® prep courses and books appear on the market to capitalize on this demand. But the “prep” they offer students does not come from current STS test content. We never sell the HSPT® to test preparation agencies or publishers. In fact, we have developed a new form of the HSPT® each year since 1957 in order to preserve test security and to prevent content from being available prior to the testing dates. So customers must be aware that any test prep materials available on the market have “found” content instead of actual HSPT® test item content.

The only test prep material endorsed by STS is our Pre- HSPT®. The Pre- HSPT® is an older edition of the HSPT®, which was developed with norms specifically for use in seventh grade. This test is only administered by high schools to give students experience with the test content and format, and to show which areas need to be improved upon.

Like the teachers and administrators we work with, STS is concerned about courses and products that try to teach students how to “game” the system by focusing on how to select the best answer choice. “Gaming the test” may result in artificially high scores, which can lead to students being misplaced in higher-level courses than they are actually prepared for. Artificial high scores can result in frustration and disappointment for students, their parents and their teachers.

We firmly believe that students do best on the HSPT® when the emphasis is on mastering curriculum skills, and on providing remediation if those skills are found to be lacking. Most schools already adequately prepare students to perform their best on the HSPT®. So parents and teachers are best advised to avoid expensive preparation materials, and to trust that a well-rounded education is the best form of test preparation.

John D. Kauffman, Ph.D.
Vice President, Marketing

Update on the Common Core Standards

In 2010 the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers released a new set of national education standards called, “The Common Core State Standards Initiative.”  The Common Core Standards enumerate specific curriculum goals in the areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards were voluntarily adopted by most of the 50 states and implementation was expected to begin in 2014.

However, in recent months the new standards have become mired in political controversy. The once voluntary standards became mandatory after the Obama Administration linked adopting the Common Core to granting waivers for No Child Left Behind.  This in turn sparked a move by some states to rescind their adoption of the new standards. Educational experts have also been divided as to whether or not national standards will improve academic achievement.

As a result of this controversy and the cuts in education nationwide, many educators have been left wondering when/if the new standards will be implemented. Here at STS we’ve spent the last few years studying the Common Core.  Rest assured that if the new standards are enacted in 2014, we will be prepared with updated assessment tools that fulfill the new curriculum requirements.

To read more about the status of the Common Core Standards, click here.

HSPT® Prep: A Superintendent’s Response to an HSPT® Test Prep Provider

As you may know, STS does not support or endorse any formal student test preparation for the High School Placement Test. This view is also shared by many of the schools who use HSPT® every year. See below for a clearly articulated view of HSPT® test preparation from a superintendent.

Dear Test Prep Provider,

I received a copy of your flyer from one of our principals.  The Catholic High School administrators and I have discussed your test prep program on several occasions over the past few years.

It has been my understanding from Dr. John Kauffman, STS, that he neither endorses nor recommends that students from Catholic elementary schools take a test prep course for the HSPT®.  Dr. Kauffmann believes that 8 or 9 years of Catholic school education is all that is necessary for students to do well on the HSPT®.  As a matter of fact, all of the qualified 8th grade students in our Catholic elementary schools are accepted into one of our Catholic high schools.

Additionally, I am concerned about the message this sends to our parents. Your message implies that the investment they have made in their child’s Catholic elementary school education now needs augmenting in order to get into a Catholic high school. Parents and students are anxious enough about the prospect of going to high school.  It appears to me that your HSPT® prep program is feeding on their anxiety and creating a need where none exists.

I suspect that you are well intended.  However, I will discourage our elementary school principals from offering, supporting, or endorsing your test prep program to our eighth grade students and their parents.

Sincerely yours,
Ms. Maureen Huntington
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of San Francisco

The Truth About HSPT® Test Prep

For over 50 years, the STS HSPT® has assisted high schools with admissions, student placement, scholarship selection, and remediation. And every fall as eighth graders prepare to take the HSPT®, STS receives a barrage of phone calls about test preparation.

When we discuss test preparation, we emphasize that a solid elementary school education usually is enough, and that most students have had several years of standardized testing under their belts by the time they take the HSPT®.  It’s also important for parents to keep in mind that “spurious” scores from test prep courses may lead to great unhappiness if a school places the student into more rigorous classes than appropriate for their current ability/achievement levels.

We also emphasize that there are no HSPT® test preparation courses, books, or other media endorsed by STS. Additionally, the schools who administer the HSPT® depend upon secure results from students whose first acquaintance with the test is on test day. Therefore, HSPT® tests are only sent to our authorized schools.

Any student test preparation should only be focused on general achievement improvement or remediation based on the most current information from the elementary school or previous test results.  If you have comments or questions about the HSPT®  or test preparation, please contact us at

Comic Books as a Writing Tool?

Why do a great number of students have trouble writing words on the page? Is it a problem with language, underdeveloped literacy skills, or just a reluctance to write?  To counter these difficulties, some educators are using the art of comic books to give young authors a creative new way to dive into literacy learning.

Although generations of kids grew up with the impression that comic books don’t make the grade with parents and teachers, comic books are gaining new-found respectability in the learning community.  Increasingly popular creative programs boost kids’ literacy skills and self-esteem through the creation of their own fantasy-based characters and comic books. Kids love comic books and superheroes, and educators are exploiting the genre to teach literacy skills with material that students are fully invested in.

Arts-based literacy and learning programs such as the Comic Book Project are allowing students to create, develop, and publish their own comic books. The 12 Comics Learning Support program offers literacy services to organizations through creation of comic books and short films to support development of literacy, math, science, history, and oral communication skills. These thoughtfully designed programs are fine examples of using an art-based genre as the common tool to spark a child’s creativity while enhancing their learning potential.

Other organizations like 826NYC offer support to students with their writing skills by providing free tutoring and after school workshops in their writing center.  826NYC is also home to the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, where 100% of the proceeds from the sale of capes, x-ray glasses and crime fighting novelties goes directly back to funding 826NYC educational programs.

Click the image to view a short video about 826NYC hosted on

Through these new visionary programs, educators have taken notice of the vital benefits an arts-based literacy and learning program can provide.  Do you think comic books and superheroes have a place in the classroom?

Through All the Buzz, Creativity is Still King

STS colleague and founder of Ignite Creative Learning Studio, Kathryn Haydon, discusses the link between creativity and the controversy surrounding the new parenting book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  (To hear an NPR interview with Amy Chua about her book, click here. )

By now, you have likely been drawn into the heated conversation about Amy Chua’s recently released book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which was sparked by her Wall Street Journal essay entitled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”. Bloggers, mainstream newspapers around the globe, and NPR have picked up the story, and they all have something to say about Chua’s stringent parenting methods. 

While people rush to take sides lambasting or praising Chua’s philosophy – or the Wall Street Journal’s audacity in running such an story – are they missing the point? 

Most people didn’t read the accompanying article to Chua’s essay, “In China, Not All Practice Tough Love”. This report cites parenting trends in China to be quite the opposite of what we are led to believe in “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.”  In fact, middle class Chinese parents are in reality moving away from the traditional focus on high academic achievement.  Instead, they are placing importance on nurturing their children’s individuality, confidence, and interests, instead of being driven by parental pride and traditional social norms.  Best-selling parenting books in China include many well-known Western titles such as How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and a book by Chinese author Fang Gang entitled My Kid Is a Medium-Ranking Student.  Fang is quoted as asking, “How many [top-ranking students] have kept independent thinking, creativity and their unique characteristics?”   And there it is, the needle in the messy haystack of unfocused debate: creativity.  But it’s not just parents thinking these thoughts.

China knows that creativity and problem solving skills are, and will be, essential to compete in the current and future “creative age”.  Ironically, as our own school systems are becoming more ingrained in a stringent, achievement-test model, China is re-focusing on problem solving and creativity.

This shift is supported by numerous sources, including “The Creativity Crisis” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, the Newsweek cover story last July that reported on the unfortunate decline of creativity in U.S. schools.  Jonathan Plucker, a Professor of Educational Psychology at Indiana University, who has conducted analyses of E. Paul Torrance’s data, was reported to have had the following experience: 

Plucker recently toured a number of such schools in Shanghai and Beijing. He was amazed by a boy who, for a class science project, rigged a tracking device for his moped with parts from a cell phone. When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. “After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud,” Plucker says. “They said, ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.’ ” (Newsweek July 2010).

So here we are, going in swinging about the not-so-nice names that Ms. Chua has admittedly called her daughters, questioning our own parenting methods, or lauding hers, when the real debate is nestled quietly at the bottom of page two.  It is interesting to ponder the irony.  If Ms. Chua’s methods truly are typically Chinese, they are so much at odds (as she says herself) with current Western thought.  However, the same Chinese people that did (or do) hold these views are seeing the big picture on education, thereby embracing creativity and problem solving in their schools. The importance of creativity is the decisive message, the real lesson we must learn from the firestorm ignited by Chua’s book.  And we need to learn it fast, before the creative tigers of the world drown out our own students’ ability to be innovators, problem solvers, and leaders to change the future for the better.

For further reading on the real issue of creativity and creative teaching and learning, please see the following books: The Element by Ken Robinson; A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink; The Making of A Beyonder by Garnet Millar; and Igniting Creativity in Gifted Learners edited by Joan Franklin Smutny and S.E. Von Fremd.

by Kathryn P. Haydon

Ignite Creative Learning Studio

January 14, 2011