Age vs Grade Norms…Again?

A group of people sitting at tables in a library.

The NASP listserv again raised the question of which norms do you use when interpreting a test, Age of the student or the Grade of the student. The question appears again and again and again. To me, it is very frustration because this question reflects the perspective of OLD vs NEW thinking or a DISABILITY WITHIN THE CHILD/STUDENT model vs “SOMETHING ELSE”–about the best way I can describe it today. Age means the kid carries around the problem regardless of what the school (or parent) has tried to do about it. Social promotion, retention (boo), odd birthday policies (oops, born a day too early, too late). Grade is how schools WORK. Schools still too often retain kids (boo) rather than provide appropriately intensive, research-based language arts (especially reading) or math curriculum aligned to research by well informed and well trained GE teachers, (although there are INCREASING efforts across the country through MTSS efforts!!!) meaning still too many kids get left behind. Furthermore, schools still don’t provide appropriately intensive, research-based  interventions to at risk students by well informed and well trained interventionists even though MANY schools are trying in their MTSS service delivery efforts. As a result, STILL too many kids are being referred for SE and as a result, we are still asking what kind of tests should I use and what kid of scores and what kind of norms should I use! GRADES drive schools’ decisions. Teachers rarely say, this kid is 11 and can’t do math. They say, this kid is in 6th grade and can’t do Grade 6 math STILL. And he has been retained. I doubt they look up his birthday or whether he was an early or late or whatever. Or if they do, they are looking for an excuse beyond whether “schooling” was at fault. If it were, TOO LATE!  Here’s where I worry if these types of questions are Confirmatory Bias or Splitting Hairs or evidence of an unclear process. What decision is being made and how can we make it in an ethical, sound, and timely manner that doesn’t distract from our time devoted to intervention?