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12/16/2009 9:34:11 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter--December 2009

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
December 2009--To Test or Not to Test Part 2
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Standardized Testing as a Means of
Documenting Your Child's Progress over Time--Part 2

By Faith E. Berens, M.Ed.
HSLDA Special Needs Coordinator

Last month's issue of the HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling
Learner email newsletter focused on ways parents can use informal
assessments to document their child's progress over the year. This
month's edition will look at the benefits of administering a
standardized achievement test annually to help document your child's
progress.

One question the Struggling Learner/Special Needs department
frequently receives is, "How necessary is it for me to administer a
standardized or achievement test if my state does not require it?"

Even if your state does not require administering and/or reporting
standardized testing, there are still benefits to doing so.
End-of-the-year tests can be a helpful source of information
concerning your child's strengths and weaknesses in subject areas. If
you give the same test each year, you can chart your child's progress,
or lack of it, and adjust your teaching emphasis and style. Some
homeschoolers do not consider end-of-the-year tests their friend, but
they can be. They give parents the feedback they need to see if they
are spending enough time on a subject, or if they need to make
curriculum changes, or instructional changes for next year.

End-of-the-year achievement tests serve several purposes for the
homeschooling family:

> They give children practice in test-taking (a skill that likely will
be needed all their lives).

> They provide important information for the parent/teacher, so that
adjustments can be made in curriculum, content, instructional time,
etc., for the next year, if necessary.

> They give encouragement. Many homeschoolers doubt that their
children are making substantial progress each year, because the daily
struggles overshadow the long-term view. Parents are often pleasantly
surprised to see the steady growth in reading, spelling and math, as
they test their children at home.

> They provide helpful documentation of your homeschooling and your
child's levels of functioning, which will help to safeguard your
homeschool, should it come under question by the state.

It is important to note that low achievement test results (especially
in reading or math) may demonstrate the need for further
in-depth/diagnostic testing to probe for possible underlying causes
for learning difficulties.

Where can you get standardized achievement tests?

1. The California Achievement Test (CAT), the most well-known
end-of-the-year tests, can be obtained at Christian Liberty Academy.
This tests levels 2nd-12th grades. The administrator may be a parent;
CAT grade equivalency report only is provided.

2. You can also get a good home test from Seton Home Study School.
This tests levels K-12th grade. No special qualifications are required
to give these tests. They are very inexpensive.

3. You can get the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills from The
Sycamore Tree. It tests levels K-12th grade. Along with the scores,
you will receive a professional critique.

4. The PASS test is available at Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. This
untimed test is aimed at students in grades 3-8. It was developed
specifically for homeschoolers. This is a good option for students
with reading disabilities or slow processing speed, as it is untimed.

5. If you belong to a homeschool co-op, often they provide
end-of-the-year testing using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the
Stanford Achievement Test. Either one of these tests will provide you
with valuable information to help you plan your instruction for the
school year.

How much help or what types of accommodations on testing can you give
your struggling learner or child with special needs?

This is another question we frequently receive in our department.
HSLDA recommends that parents adhere to the test publisher's
administration and standardization requirements. However, if your
child has a documented learning disability diagnosed by a physician,
psychologist, or educational diagnostician, then the parents may
provide testing accommodations. We suggest you consult with test
suppliers or publishers to find out what accommodations are allowable.
Some common testing accommodations often recommended by psychologists
and educational evaluators include:

> Extended time.

> Allowing parent-teacher to transfer marked answers from student test
booklet to the bubble answer sheet (if child has visual tracking or
fine motor problems).

> Permitting parent-teacher to act as "scribe" if the test includes an
essay section, or allowing child to use a laptop/word processor (if
child has dysgraphia).

> Allowing parent-teacher to read aloud portions of test, such as math
word problems, if child has dyslexia.

> Permitting use of calculator or other helps on math portion of test,
if child has diagnosis of dyscalculia.

It is important to document the types of testing accommodations you
provide when administering standardized tests to your child.

Some Testing Tips:

1. Most of the time it is wise to choose the test level based on what
grade the child would be in if he were enrolled in traditional school.
In order to make the most practical use of the scores, you should not
test above your child's reading level. Choose the grade level that
most accurately reflects his current functioning level in the majority
of subjects. Test at the level that most closely reflects your
child's functioning level or instructional level in reading. In other
words, if your child is a 4th grader, but is being instructed in
reading at the 3rd grade level, then test him at the 3rd grade level.

2. Use materials to prepare your child with test-taking strategies and
to familiarize him with how standardized tests are laid out.

3. If you have never done standardized testing, administer the test
first in the fall and use the data as your "baseline." Then administer
again at the end of your homeschool year, compare the results and note
any progress made.

4. As you instruct through the year, use the type of language your
child will encounter on the test, such as terms like "passage" or
"selection." Be sure to give your child opportunities to approach the
types of problems, questions, charts, graphs, etc. that he will
encounter on the standardized test you have chosen to use.

5. Instruct your child how to "bubble in" answers, mark or highlight
in their test booklets, eliminate answers they know are incorrect,
etc.


For further information on testing visit the following HSLDA webpages:


Testing and Consultants for Struggling Learners
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7348

Testing FAQs
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=7349
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