This week in our Homeschool Series our All-Star Blogger Kathy talks about the end of the year testing, and what that means for homeschoolers.
Most states require end of the year standardized testing, which can often be confusing to homeschoolers who teach to the beat of their own drums. Here in New York, we are required to administer tests every other year between third and eighth, and annually from ninth through graduation. These exams are not pass/fail. They show how your child compares to all the other children in his or her grade on material that typically is covered in that grade.
The tests do not:
- Measure your child’s intelligence or ability
- Show you how well you’re doing educating your child
- Allow the school district access to your curriculum if your child is “behind” in any area
- Help you choose materials for your child
Results from a standardized exam will tell you how your child’s ability to regurgitate information compares against that of other children of his or her arbitrarily chosen grade level. It may be nice to see your child is well ahead of his or her peers in math, but you probably already know that if you are working with your child day after day. You might not be surprised by any of these results.
End of the year standardized testing
There are several ways to satisfy a standardized testing requirement. Your school district may offer them (ours does for a small fee). Your co-op or local homeschooling group may have certified administrators who will organize testing. There are some tests that can be given by parents in the home.
To my knowledge, most states that require standardized testing have requirements for the exams and the administrators. Typically, a test proctor must have at least a Bachelor’s degree. Some states require a certified teacher give the exams while others are satisfied by an administrator with a degree. HSLDA.org is a good place to research state requirements.
The most common exams used in homeschooling are the California Achievement Exam (CAT), Terra Nova (often used in public schools), the IOWA exam, and the Stanford. Each has a core section (math, reading, spelling, etc.) and optional subjects such as science, social studies, and reference materials. Other tests are available, including cognitive ability exams, but these do not satisfy the state testing requirement.
Bob Jones University is one of the best-known standardized testing resources for the homeschooling community. To purchase exams, you must become a registered administrator. This takes only a few minutes and requires a Bachelor’s degree. You simply enter your information and wait to be approved.
Because our homeschooling community is large, another test administrator and I coordinate with my church to use their Kidz Church classrooms for end of the year testing. We use three rooms – grades 3-8, grades 9-12, and “Special Needs” (students who qualify for accommodations due to learning disabilities… for instance, my daughter is dyslexic and can have parts of the test read to her). Testing usually takes two days, with the core section requiring about four hours and the optional section requiring another two hours (depending on the test).
Parents also help proctor the exams. They supervise children going to the restroom, help distribute and collect materials, and watch the Special Needs room after the test has been given to the students. The administrator gives the instructions to the children and times the exam sections, but a parent can sit in the room and supervise the children as they work. You are qualified by right of being an adult! You don’t need special permission to assist a test administrator.
So far in my test administrator experience I have had one child vomit, and three cry from stress and fear. Some forget that the tests are only given to satisfy a state requirement and allow the pressure cause a lot of stress.
Tips for testing:
- Remind your child that the test is only to satisfy a state requirement, and doesn’t impact his or her grades, advancement, or studies.
- Prepare your child for the length of time he or she will spend sitting. This is the biggest issue I have with homeschoolers. Remind your child other students can’t concentrate if they are making noise.
- Don’t be afraid to seek accommodations for your child if they’re warranted. A dyslexic student needs more time on the test. A child with ADHD may need breaks during the test. Accommodations do not impact your child’s score.
- Don’t test young children if there is no test to be given. They are too young to sit for four or more hours filling in bubbles, and the test serves no purpose.
- Don’t place too much importance on the results. Remember that the scores are based on the average of every student taking the exam who took that grade level test. As homeschoolers, we don’t follow the same schedule as the public schools, and we recognize our kids might be stronger in some areas than others. Grade levels are arbitrary based on age, and no two people of the same age are equally apt in any area. Take it for what it is, and let it go.
You spend every day with this child and know his or her abilities and struggles. Don’t let a test change how you work with your child! Meet the requirements, and don’t let it disrupt your homeschool. You know what you’re doing, Mom!
About the All-Star Blogger
About Kathy – I am a Christian homeschooling mom from Northern NY. I suffered a severe spinal cord injury in 2011 which left me physically disabled. This blessing allowed me to homeschool my two children, ages 14 and 11, which we had always wanted to do. I blog about Christianity, homeschooling, children, marriage, and living as a disabled person. You can email me at [email protected] dot com. <3 I hope you enjoy and God bless!