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5/14/2009 4:30:50 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
May 2009: Testing: Scores and S'mores
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by Betty Statnick, M. Ed

A high volume of calls are directed to HSLDA special needs
coordinators at this time of each school year. Many of these calls
are related to testing (or other forms of end-of-year progress
reports). Therefore, in this "mini-tutorial" I will weave in the
concerns HSLDA members voice to me and expand upon my responses to
their questions.

Some of you may live in a state which mandates that your child be
administered a nationally normed standardized achievement test, and
those "regs" may require, for instance, that your child score overall
at the 23rd percentile or higher. The 23rd percentile is the lowest
score a student can achieve to be considered within the average range
of performance. Another way to look at the scores is to think in
terms of stanines. The word "stanine" comes from standard nine-point
scale. Stanines 7, 8, and 9 indicate above-average performance;
stanines 4, 5, and 6 indicate average performance; stanines 1, 2, and
3 indicate below-average performance. The 23rd percentile is the
lowest score a person can get to be classified in the average
category.

TEST DEVELOPMENT

At this point, it may be helpful for you to have some background
information about test development. The test authors develop a
standardized achievement test by exploring the specific content in
each academic subject area in commonly used textbooks. They do that
for each grade level and, based on that research, they develop a pool
of test items. Next they administer "their test" to diverse
populations in various geographical areas of the United States. As a
part of the process, they "toss out" any item which everyone misses or
any item which everyone gets right. Through that procedure, they
chart statistically how typical students perform in each of the
academic subject areas. That is the basis for determining percentile
and stanines.

Some of you fear that, for various reasons, your child will not "get a
high enough score" on the required achievement test. My
recommendation to callers is that you prepare your child throughout
the school year for taking the test. You can secure test preparation
workbooks and, ideally speaking, make sure that you teach those
concepts on which your child will be tested. Then, be sure to teach
in the test format all year long. That is, use the language of test
questions. Consistently use the different types of questions
(fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, using visuals/graphs) which are
known to be on achievement tests. NOTE: See test preparation resource
list at the end of this article.

This 2008-2009 school year was the first time my 8-year-old grandson,
Micah, was required to take a standardized achievement test.

(For the homeschooling years prior to this one, a qualified
professional thoroughly reviewed a portfolio of his work and asked
Micah and his teacher-mom many questions. Afterward, that
professional wrote a one-half page letter stating that, based on her
interview with him and a review of his portfolio, he had achieved an
acceptable level of educational growth and progress for that school
year.)

However, about two months before Micah was to have this year's first
experience with the state-required standardized testing, his mother
administered to him under standardized conditions (that is, according
to precise test directions) the CAT (California Achievement Test) as a
practice test. Feeling like a pro already, Micah had a restful
night's sleep on the eve of his first test date. He also had a
nutritious breakfast the morning of the first test date and felt fully
prepared for the testing ahead. He remained unperturbed for the three
test dates and trusts that he will have as high a score on that
test--ITED (Iowa Test of Educational Development) as he had attained
on the CAT.

NOTE: Your child should be tested in a room with others taking the
same level of test that he is taking. It is not in accord with
standardized conditions that the test administrator give one set of
directions to one grade level of students, get them started and, right
after that, give aloud another set of directions to another age or
grade group. It is unfair to the group already underway in taking
their test to be disturbed by someone speaking aloud in that same
room. Test scores could be lowered under that type of setup.

INTERPRETING TEST RESULTS

Now that we have reflected on test development and test taking, we
need to briefly address what to do with the test results. It is
important to remember that a test should be a teaching tool. Said
another way: a test should help "drive" instruction. To simply get
test results and file those results away is really not a productive
use of your time or your student's time. For instance, you may have
received a computer printout of test results which states that your
child missed 3 out of 3 reading test items related to inferential
reasoning. That will call for more in-depth probing. I have helped
explain that kind of thing to parents and suggested kinds of
curriculum resources they can use to help diagnose and remediate their
child's apparent weaknesses.

Low achievement test scores overall (or in a specific subject area)
usually means that more in-depth diagnostic testing should be
administered. It may be important for your child to have cognitive
ability testing as a part of in-depth probing to help uncover reasons
for his lowered performance.

I was very impressed by the presentation of a brilliant,
world-renowned neurologist at an educational conference I attended in
Washington, D.C. some years ago. Before he started speaking in that
workshop, he was having great difficulty with getting his microphone
to work. So he pled, "I am a motor idiot; would someone please come
and help me with this device?" That often-quoted medical doctor whose
research and published works have benefited so many is not defined by
his inadequacies, and neither should your child's test scores alone
define him. Education and learning are represented by so much more
than the isolated samples of behavior that test scores provide.

Above all else, then, don't let test scores defeat you. Let them
serve as a catalyst to spur you on to find the help your child needs
in order to achieve his maximum potential. The purpose of testing is
to help keep you on the path of effective teaching. REMEMBER that
test scores represent your child's current functioning level. You are
expecting that under your informed, adjusted home instruction your
child's test scores will rise. The three of us HSLDA special needs
coordinators are available to help you with these things.

Some of you may be allowed to submit portfolios of your child's work
instead of achievement test results. Even though it is not the
purpose of this newsletter to discuss portfolios extensively, I do
want to make some recommendations related to them:

1. You may want to use a loose leaf binder to "house" your child's
work samples. Plastic sleeves work well for this purpose.

2. Be sure to date each item; include such items as tests, rough
drafts of written compositions/reports plus the finished product.
Include items from the beginning, middle, and the end of the year (and
points-in-between). The main idea is that you want to show how he has
made progress.

3. You can include snapshots of your child at work, of your child in
church performances, of your child's work at county fairs: showing
livestock, a display of sewing/crafts, other artwork, etc. Include
pictures of your child visiting/singing or reading to/performing for
residents of senior citizen's homes.

4. Include programs of performances in which your child had a singing,
speaking, ushering part, etc.

5. Be sure to have work representative of each academic subject area.
You may want to include workbook pages and such things as a snapshot
of your child cooking in the kitchen (applying the math concepts he
has just been learning).

Yearly portfolios can develop into wonderful family keepsakes.

Your end-of-year "must do" notes may list either achievement tests,
portfolios, or consultant-written reports. Remember, an HSLDA
membership perk means that you can speak with one of the three HSLDA
special needs coordinators and receive their professional help and
encouragement in these matters.


SOME TEST PREPARATION RESOURCES:

> Curriculum Associates: (800) 225-0248
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6537 or
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6540 Test Ready Series.

> Lingui Systems: (800) 776-4332 (These are not listed in their
catalog but are available on their website.
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6538):

125 Ways to be a Better Test Taker (Elementary grades 2-6 ages 7-11)

125 Ways to be a Better Test Taker (Jr/Sr High grades 7-12 ages 12-18)

"These books help your students learn the art of test preparation and
test taking and how to judge the accuracy of their answers."

Quote: "If students cannot determine the accuracy of their test
answers, they will not know how to correct them." --from Johns
Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

> Spectrum Test Prep workbooks are sold at major bookstore chains
including Books-A-Million, Borders, and Barnes and Noble. Seton
Center also sells the Spectrum Test Prep workbooks. Their phone
number is 800-542-1066 and their web address is
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6539. Note: You can secure the
California Achievement Test from Seton Center.
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