Homeschooler’s Guide to Standardized Testing is a post from Shannen of Middle Way Mom:
Are standardized tests required in your state? According to HSLDA in 2012, 24 states require some type of standardized testing for homeschooled students. Some of these states require submitting the results, while others do not.
Even if your state doesn’t require standardized testing, some parents find it beneficial to test alongside their public school counterparts. It’s important to remember standardized tests only show some pieces of the puzzle. They aren’t an end-all determination of the success of your homeschool, but it can be a great way to solidify the work that you’ve done.
HSLDA is a fantastic resource for finding the answer for your specific state. Some pieces of information require signing up for their free mailing list, which can be beneficial for staying on top of homeschool news anyway.
Need test prep?
There are many workbooks available for test prep, and only you know if your child would benefit from such a book. Do they understand the idea of filling in an answer bubble on a separate sheet of paper? Can they keep their place when they are filling out work? Can they accurately fill in bubbles without scribbling on the paper?
No one likes sitting down and filling out bubbles on a piece of paper. I would argue that once your child knows how to do that task, move on. I doubt it’s necessary to fill out an entire test prep workbook, with some exceptions.
Standardized test choices
There are many choices for standardized tests, but not all are nationally recognized. The ones I have listed below are normally recognized nationwide (exceptions are listed when you order the test), and are easy to order.
CAT (California Achievement Test)
The CAT is the shortest test on this list since it only covers language and math. You can order and administer the test yourself, regardless of whether you have a Bachelor’s degree or not (some tests require a BA or BS). Some families will choose this test because of the shorter time, especially if they have a large family or don’t feel testing is valuable and only need to fulfill the requirement.
ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills)
ITBS is the only test on this list that also includes study skills, like using reference materials and maps. Unlike the CAT, it includes sections for science and social studies, plus an optional cognitive abilities test. The parent needs to have a Bachelor’s degree in order to administer the test for their student, or for others. I use this myself, simply because it was widely used in the public schools in our area for quite some time. The nay-sayers in our life have some experience with the test, and consider it a valid exam.
Standford tests are unique in that they offer a lexile measure in their most basic exam, along with the standard language, math, science, and social studies. Again, a parent needs a BA or BS to administer the exam, and when purchasing through BJU Press, you must watch a training video as well (assuming you do not have full-time teaching experience).
There has been talk that the Terra Nova test will be replacing the CAT since it was originally a spin-off of the CAT. Terra Nova exams include language, math, science, and social studies. Like the CAT, you do not need a Bachelor’s degree to administer the test to your student.
The Peabody test is a favorite in our local community because it’s a verbal test. Struggling readers, or students who have trouble sitting for extended periods of time, enjoy the conversation-feel of the Peabody test. If you have a struggling reader, I would highly suggest the Peabody so the reading aspect of the test won’t unnecessarily lower the scores of all sections of the test. Science test scores should not suffer because of a reading challenge. The Peabody test must be administered by a certified Peabody Administrator and there are many administrators now offering testing via Skype, making it very convenient!
How to test
You can choose to order a test and administer it at home, or hire someone to administer a test on your behalf. While testing at home is easiest when you have all school-age kids, completing standardized tests with toddlers at home can be done, it just takes a bit of planning. Seton and BJU Press both sell testing supplies, and BJU has a list of test administrators you can contact if you want to outsource the task. (Seton may also have such a list, but I don’t have personal experience ordering from them.)
If you choose to test at home, make sure to block out an entire day, or more, for testing. Know your child and when they are at their peak. We do the harder tests in the morning, and a couple easy ones after lunch, then end the day earlier than normal. While testing seems like it would be an easy day, it’s monotonous and drab, so cutting the day short is typically best.
Standardized test scores
The Peabody test is the only test listed above that gives you the student’s score right away. All other tests will send the results either via email or snail mail. You will get a wealth of information, but remember, that test isn’t the final factor on how successful your homeschool was for the given year!
Testing is great for finding holes in your kids’ education, and helping you make a game plan for the coming year, but it doesn’t measure their love of learning, motivation, drive for excellence, or instincts. Don’t let the test scores make or break you, but use them as one tool in your homeschool tool belt.
How do standardized tests fit in your homeschool? How much weight do you give the results?
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