“Oh, Here Comes Homeschool Testing Time”
“We’re Hopping Down the Testing Trail…Hippity Hoppity Testing’s On the Way…”
By Faith Berens
Special Needs Consultant
Spring has sprung and our kiddos are bouncy, full of energy, and wanting to spend more and more time outside. Yes, “spring fever” has definitely hit in our home! However, it’s also that time of year when we as the parent-teachers are preparing for our children’s end-of-year progress checks and testing…(did I hear an “ugh”?).
Faith Berens has served as an HSLDA consultant since 2008. She and her husband homeschool. Read
Finding “Treats” on the Testing Trail (Benefits and Purposes of Testing)
Even if testing is not a requirement in your state, our department encourages parents who are homeschooling struggling learners and children with special needs to arrange for regular evaluations and document their child’s progress. It is important to keep accurate records demonstrating how you are meeting your child’s special needs and how your child is progressing. As a general guide, the more severe the special learning need, the more frequent and thorough the evaluations should be.
Homeschool parents, because they work so closely with their children every day, usually have a fairly accurate view of where their children are academically. However, regularly evaluating and testing keeps us on the trail of effective teaching. Remember the aim of a diagnosis is to help develop a plan of remediation. By administering end-of-the-year assessments, we can gain valuable information and insight about what skills we need to continue to work on, perhaps over summer months, and which skills are truly solid. Our year-end assessments not only help us plan instructional goals for our new school year, but also allow us to choose optimum levels of material and curricula for our children.
• Assessment should drive and direct our teaching.
• Assessment has the potential to silence our critics.
• Standardized tests can affirm both your child’s learning progress and the effectiveness of your current teaching strategies.
• An objective evaluation can encourage teacher and student and also provide confirmation of your success to other family members, friends, and the state, where required.
• Reveals your child’s strengths.
• Standardized tests might also point out weaknesses that you may not have noticed. You can then work to improve in these areas.
• Assessment can give us new insight into your child’s challenges.
Types of tests and assessments that can be used to measure and document progress:
• Curriculum-based assessments, such as end-of-unit tests, parent-teacher made tests, quizzes, or evaluations.
• Informal and ongoing assessments, such as checklists, rubrics, oral reading records, anecdotal notes, work samples, portfolios, student learning logs, journals, etc.
• Standardized, achievement tests (nationally normed).
• Informal reading inventories and other diagnostic reading tests (such as the GORT-4 and the QRI) which must be administered by an educational diagnostician, reading specialist or reading clinician.
• Speech and language and audiology diagnostic screenings and assessments (to assess articulation, language processing, expressive and receptive language, and/or auditory processing.
• Psycho-educational testing (to include tests of cognitive abilities and an achievement test, as well as other diagnostic tests to assess processing areas) conducted by a licensed professional.
For a list of testing terms, definitions, and helpful information on how to interpret testing results, be sure to visit the HEAV website.
Standardized Achievement Tests:
Homeschool regulations and requirements for standardized testing vary from state to state. So, be sure to check your state requirements here on HSLDA’s website.
1. California Achievement Test (CAT):
Parents are permitted to administer the CAT test, and it is available through Seton Center.
2. PASS Test:
Personalized Achievement Summary System Test (PASS), a norm-referenced test especially developed for homeschoolers in grades 3–8 by Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. Results show both overall achievement and performance in each of the three subjects, which are reading, math and language. The PASS is an untimed test. Testing twice a year is recommended to obtain a more accurate measure of achievement. You must give a placement test before the actual achievement test. Alaska, New York and North Carolina have officially approved the PASS Test for state reporting.
3. Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement:
Woodcock-Johnson tests must be individually administered by a specifically trained administrator. A computerized report of scores is given. Note: There are also Woodcock-Johnson tests for cognitive ability. Again, the publishers of this test require it be administered by a licensed or specifically trained professional.
4. Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) for grades K–8 and Iowa Tests of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP) for Grades 9–12:
The Iowa gives a lot of subscores, so you can see more clearly how your child did on each different subject. It is easily administered and provides the required information for a very reasonable cost. Many large support groups provide this test. The publisher of the ITBS tests have specific requirements and rules regarding test administration and the examiner's credentials.
5. Stanford Achievement Test:
Many private schools use the Stanford. The publishers of the Stanford test have specific rules and regulations regarding the examiner’s credentials and test administration.
Frequently Asked Testing Questions
1. I know my child will not perform well on (or is unable to take) a standardized achievement test. What alternative tests or assessments can I use?
If you are required in your state to administer some type of standardized achievement test, then we recommend that you work with an educational consultant or evaluator who could select an assessment instrument appropriate for your child and his unique challenges and needs. For children who are non-verbal, professional testers, psychologists, language specialists, and educational diagnosticians have training in and access to evaluation tools that are picture-based/non-verbal, as well as some computerized assessments. Parents may be able to substitute a psycho-educational battery of tests (to include cognitive and achievement tests), a narrative summary report, or portfolio option. Please be sure to speak with the HSLDA legal representative or one of the special needs consultants if you have questions about how to best satisfy your state’s testing requirements (if any).
You can view summaries of each state’s homeschool laws on HSLDA’s website.
Our Special Needs Department also rents Brigance assessments to members. These assessments are a wonderful tool for progress monitoring, program planning, and goal setting. For more information about these assessment kits, please visit our website.
2. How do I choose which grade level of the standardized test to administer?
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 independent reading level. Choose the grade level that most accurately reflects his current functioning level in the majority of subjects. In some instances, particularly when there is a vast difference in functioning levels of reading and math, parents may choose to administer subtests at varying grade levels (for example, the reading portion of the CAT test at 2nd grade and then the 5th grade math subtest). It will be helpful to speak with your state’s HSLDA legal representative and a special needs consultant regarding how to best meet your state’s testing requirements and accommodate your child’s special circumstances.
3. Can I grant my child special testing accommodations, such as reading aloud the test to him or giving extended time?
Testing accommodations are commonly defined as a change in the way that a test is administered or responded to by the person tested and are intended to offset or “correct” for distortions in scores caused by a disability. Keep in mind that accommodations are intended to “level the playing field” for the student with disabilities so that he can have equal access to demonstrate knowledge.
The legal staff encourages parents and those who facilitate the standardized testing to adhere to the test publisher’s administration directions and standardized testing procedures. However, if your child has a documented diagnosis of a disability, such as a learning disability (writing/dysgraphia or reading disorder/dyslexia), dyscalculia (math learning disability), a handicapping condition, or ADD/ADHD, then we encourage families to speak with a representative from the test provider (publisher or vendor) to inquire about allowable testing accommodations.
Some accommodations may possibly include the use of a calculator, frequent breaks, untimed testing or extended time (sometimes called time and half), use of a reader, reading aloud math story problems for a child with a reading disability, and allowing child with visual processing difficulties or dysgraphia to mark or indicate answers in test booklet rather than completing a “bubble” answer sheet. (The teacher would then transfer the child’s answer to the bubble sheet.)
I hope you have found this information on testing encouraging and helpful.