Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers?

In recent years, standardized testing has become a measuring stick for schools. The results of these tests help administrators plan and alter their school's future. It can also be used for measuring and comparing individual student's performances.

For homeschoolers, not affiliated with the public school system, a standardized test may be an option or it may be required. Either way, parents often have a lot of questions regarding the test, the process, and the value of testing. I know I have had many questions over the years.

{The questions I have asked and the responses I have received mixed with our family's experience follow.  I am not an expert.  I am just sharing my family's personal experiences.} 

Should I have my child take a standardized test?
First, you must determine what your state's requirements are by reading the law for yourself. Do not rely on another to interpret the law for you. Second, if you belong to an umbrella school, then check their requirements. For instance, for our family, technically, our state has no requirements for testing, but the umbrella school we belong to does. It requires students to test in 3rd grade, 6th grade, 8th grade, and 10th grade. For the grades that testing is not required, it is optional.

How do I decide which test my child should take?
If the test is not mandated (by state or school) then it depends on the individual test and what you want measured. Some tests reveal areas of academic weaknesses, either due to the student's individual abilities or the schooling experience. Some tests simply compare the student's academic ability to other students in the same grade. Explore the variety of tests available to you in your state that test what you want to measure.

How do we prepare for the test?
Begin to prepare your child by telling him what the test will be like. Be sure to emphasize that the test will measure what they know as well as ask questions that they don't know.

Review test taking strategies with your child. There are resources such as testing booklets that familiarize your student with the format of a standardized test. Some of these are more valuable than others. For instance, if your child will be taking the TerraNova test, then search for the TerraNova test practice workbooks. These follow the same format as the actual test, and will be more beneficial in that case.

The night before the test, help your child pack their bag. Each time our children have tested, they needed three sharpened number two pencils, a book or drawing paper to occupy them after the test, and a snack/bottle of water. Be sure your child is able to get a good night's rest.

How do we read the results?
Be sure to read all the pages entirely. There is usually a section that tells you how to interpret the results. Some tests explain what was measured, how it was measured, and how it was compared.

If you still do not understand the results, contact the administrator of the test or seek information from other parents and online sources. These sources should be able to answer the specific questions you have.

What if my child scores low?
First do not panic. Keep in mind that some children do not test well, especially if this is their first standardized testing. However, do not prematurely conclude this is the case.

Explore why the test score was low. Did the test use different terms than what your child has learned? For instance, did the test use the term base word instead of root word, and your child didn't know the unfamiliar term? Did the test cover material your curriculum/homeschool approach has yet to cover? Was the format of the questions foreign to your child?

Or, do the results show a problem? Perhaps the low scores do indicate a learning disability or deficit that needs addressed. Find out first, then seek appropriate help and make adjustments as needed.

This year, in our homeschool, only one of our children requires testing.  My husband and I will determine if the other two will test or not. 

So, today, I am asking...what do you think:
is there value in standardized testing for homeschoolers?

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