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From East to West, Which Test is Best?

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“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” —Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)

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Custom Test

The Association of Christian Schools International, in cooperation with the developers of the Stanford Achievement Test series, has introduced a special Christian School Edition of the Stanford Achievement Test. The core questions provide the link to the national norms of Stanford-9. (Read more.) (From The Teaching Home magazine)

Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens consultant

One of the most frequent questions I get about testing is,

“Which test should I use?
Which one is best?
How do I choose
From the CAT, SAT, MAT, or the Iowa Test?”

Well, maybe not in Seussical style, but you get the idea! The CAT (The California Achievement Test), SAT (Stanford 9/10), Metropolitan Achievement Test (MAT), and Iowa Test of Basic Skills … these are just a few of the many options available to home-educating parents for assessment of progress. How’s a parent to choose? Here are a few tips to help you decide.

What is your purpose in testing? If you are testing as a diagnostic tool, for assessment or placement, you’ll want a test that gives fairly comprehensive results. If you are testing only to have a score to submit to satisfy statutory requirements, the basic composite score may be sufficient for you. At our site, you’ll find a list of commonly used tests; many offer sample results reports so you can get an idea of what information you’ll receive back.

Will any statutory requirements influence your needs? In most cases—unless specified otherwise in your state’s requirements—the basic battery of language arts and math is sufficient and will give you a basic battery composite score. Unless your state law mandates testing in the content areas of social studies or science, it is not generally advisable to spend your time or money on that optional portion of a test. Your child may or may not have studied the same content in social studies and science as the norm group—as opposed to language arts and math, which are skills subjects and usually track similarly from curriculum to curriculum. When in doubt, members should consult their HSLDA legal staff.

Which test is the best fit for your child? Consider the format that will best reflect your child’s true progress: While a visual learner may test well on paper using the fill-in-the-circles format, a hands-on or auditory learner may be better assessed by an evaluation or a test utilizing personal interaction, such as the Woodcock-Johnson, WRAT, or Brigance, rather than a paper-and-pencil test. In the latter case, some parents choose to administer a paper-and-pencil standardized test earlier in the season, leaving time for a follow-up interactive test if the results don’t match what they’ve witnessed in his day-to-day progress. Another option is to choose an untimed test to reduce testing anxiety.

Will a placement test be sufficient for our needs? If you are testing for placement purposes only and do not need to submit scores, consider a placement test, online assessment, or a scope-and-sequence checklist as a gauge of milestones achieved.

Do I have other options? If your statute allows for alternative methods of assessment, consider an evaluation or portfolio assessment if standardized testing is not your preference. As always, you’ll want to consider any legal requirements before proceeding. If you will use an outside evaluator, it is helpful to contact her well in advance to be aware of any paperwork she’ll want you to save for her consideration during the year.

Check out the Toddlers to Tweens pages for more information on testing, including an updated list of suggested test sources, how to prepare for the test, and how to interpret the scores.

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.


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