At this time of year, many parents are thinking about how to assess their children’s progress. The first step is to determine your own state’s testing requirements, if there are any. The law may require that you periodically demonstrate academic progress. Some statutes mandate standardized testing, while others may allow for a teacher letter or some other form of evaluation.
Even if your state’s law does not dictate testing, you may want to conduct a more formal assessment for your own purposes, whether for end-of-year proof of progress or for baseline testing when removing a child from a conventional school setting.
Consider Your Options
The method you choose for your child will depend upon your state’s legal requirements, if applicable, as well as your family’s philosophical preference. Consider also the format that will best reflect your child’s true progress: While a visual learner may test well on paper, a hands-on or auditory learner may be better assessed by an evaluation or a test utilizing personal interaction, rather than a paper-and-pencil test. In that case, you might choose to administer a standardized test first, leaving time for a follow-up if the results don’t match what you’ve witnessed in his day-to-day progress, or you may opt for an untimed test to reduce testing anxiety.
Choose a Test
Standardized tests are developed by commercial test publishers to provide a snapshot of the academic skills and abilities of a large sampling of students of the same grade level; examples include the Stanford, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, California Achievement Test, and Terra Nova, to name a few. Although we often think that standardized tests indicate how our child compares academically to grade-level expectations, they actually indicate how our child compares academically to other kids at his grade level who took the same test on a given date (the norming date for the specific edition of the test). While most tests are the paper-and-pencil variety, more companies are offering online or computerized versions, as well. Links to commonly used standardized tests.
If you need additional help choosing the test that might be most appropriate for your needs, members may call our education consultants for guidance.
What about Common Core?
Currently, although most standardized tests are being revised to align with Common Core standards, homeschoolers should find the revised tests no more challenging than earlier tests. However, for nationally normed, standardized testing that is not aligned to Common Core standards, look for norm dates of 2010 or earlier. Most of the tests on the HSLDA Early Years testing sources page will be these earlier norm dates. You can also check the Homeschool Resource Road Map testing page for a key to aligned and independent testing. See HSLDA’s Common Core information section for more details.
Know the Requirements and Deadlines
If your state’s laws or regulations require testing or assessments, pay close attention to the details of those requirements; various aspects of testing and assessment are handled differently from state to state. If there are any deadlines, keep in mind that ordering a test may take some time, administering it will take some time, and getting the results back will take some time. Know which scores are required by your state and in what format they should be reported—when in doubt, contact our legal staff. Plan ahead so you aren’t caught by surprise.
Let’s face it—when the results come in, you often feel like those results are yours, not your child’s! So how can you lessen the anxiety—for you and your student?
Prepare Your Student
The test will have questions ranging from below the testing grade level to well above grade level, so it is important for your child to understand that you do not expect him to know all the answers. Otherwise, he may panic when he encounters material with which he is not familiar. As parents, we must remember that if and when we test our children in everyday studies, we do it to check that they have learned all the material presented and we expect (hope for?) a score of 100. Consequently, it is critical that the child understands that we don’t expect him to know all the answers on this test, but we simply want to find out how many he does know, that some of them are—deliberately—too hard for him, and he should just do his best.
If a timed test is too stressful for your child, consider an untimed test (such as the Stanford 10) or another method of assessment, if possible.
Keep the Results in Perspective
Remember that a test or evaluation is just one “snapshot” of his academic progress and of your child as a person. He is more than the sum of his test results! This time of year can be a wonderful reminder to thank God for this uniquely gifted child He has given you—and to trust Him to continue to guide your choices and approaches.
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens consultant
This newsletter includes content that was shared with Toddlers to Tweens subscribers in a past edition. We felt it would benefit homeschooling parents again as they approach another academic testing season.