With the big push for Common Core standards here in the US, testing has become a cornerstone.
Right now, homeschoolers have the advantage of being in a place where Common Core testing isn’t being held over the heads of our children. Standardized testing has always been around but this push for “high-stakes testing” is all new. Thankfully, we aren’t being forced into those (yet). Even so, the peer pressure that many families feel surrounding standardized test scores often mimics the pressure students taking those high-stakes tests in our public schools feel. This should not be!
Some states are very strict and require the results of standardized tests be submitted to a local school district office.
Others require no testing what so ever. Here in Washington state, we are required to test, but we keep the results in our student’s education file at home unless we ever need to prove they’ve been tested.
In 18 years of homeschooling, I was only asked for test scores when we started allowing our son to take a few classes at a school part-time, and we needed to set up a 504-Accomodations Plan for him. Having his most recent standardized test scores made this a lot easier.
What does it mean to have your student tested?
Nothing. It really means nothing, unless you want it to. I look at test results as a way to get a bigger view of where my kids are academically. Test results are a tool.
Standardized testing can:
- Help you get a big picture view of how your student is doing.
- Show you what your student knows.
- Help you see areas of need- you may be surprised!
- Help you plan your curriculum and topic focus for the coming year.
- Give you a concrete way to prove what you are doing, if you need it.
- Help prepare older students for college entrance exams by becoming accustomed to the format.
Standardized testing is not designed to:
- Add to or take away from what your student knows.
- Prove how smart your student is.
- Be taken as gospel. It’s just a picture.
- Diagnose learning disabilities, although it may reveal areas of need.
How do I have my child tested?
Look to your local homeschool group or organization first. Many offer group testing in the spring. Other places include:
Hewitt Homeschool Resources offers the PASS test. Not accepted in all states, so check with your state’s code or ask Hewitt. They may know.
Family Learning Organization offers standardized testing materials (you return them) and teacher-based assessments. This is who we used for years.
Seton Testing Services and Abeka Testing both offer the Standford Achievement Test Online, which is what we have used for the past two years. My boys do well with the computer-based format of the SAT Online. They also offer traditional standardized testing materials.
After testing, what do I do with the results?
Depending on what your state requires, you will save them and/or submit them. I add a second layer to the saving though: Digitize them. If you receive results in PDF format, be sure to download it to your computer and back it up to the cloud using something like Evernote (my personal choice) or even an external hard drive. Having a printed copy of the results is good, but taking a copy digitally is a good way to assure you don’t lose them.
Read the results with an open mind. Remember, these scores do not define everything your child is or everything that he knows. It is just a picture. We used the SAT-10 Online for the past two years and now I can see where there was improvement and where there wasn’t. Just a glance at the scores graph shows me everything I need to know.
Make a plan. Areas of need may require addressing. What’s missing? What might need to be changed to strengthen that area? Start looking at doing what is needed.
Standardized testing isn’t the be-all, end-all that some make it out to be.
This type of testing is just like curriculum: Use it as a tool. Nothing more.