Homeschool Standardized Testing….to test or not to test? That is the question at hand today!
This year I took the plunge and decided to test my kids. I wanted to do it as a trial year before we actually had to submit our results. I also thought it would be good practice for the kids to do a “standardized” test as well as for me to gauge how we were doing.
In our state testing is required for odd years only starting at grade 3 so we will be officially needing to test at the end of this 2011-2012 school year. Homeschool testing requirements vary by state, so you’ll want to check recent laws by state, you can find information at the HSLDA Website. PLEASE NOTE: I do not live in IOWA, the Iowa Standardized tests are available no matter where you live, you can administer any test you like as long as it is acceptable through your state requirements.
I was previously nervous about the whole “testing” topic and had kind of avoided it, but really it was very easy! I wanted to share a little info with you all to relieve any test anxiety you may have as well.
So what is the process?
STEP 1. Choose your tests.
There are a variety of tests you can choose from, the most popular tests are the Iowa’s, Staffords, and CAT tests, but there are others including assessments as well.
Most testing sites will tell you which test to order for your student’s grade, typically you will order the test for the grade level they are entering, not the one they are finishing. But check with the test order site, it should guide you as to which test they want you to choose.
If you hold a Bachelor’s Degree you can order the Iowa Standard Tests from BJU Press Testing. You can also order Stanford Tests from them as well. You can find more information on Test options on the HSLDA Website. If you are going to do the Iowa’s you need to first get approved as a test administrator. There is a Test Administrator Application link on the left sidebar of their site. For Iowa’s, you will need to send in a copy of your Bachelor’s diploma. I faxed mine over and received approval within about 10 days. Keep in mind that most tests must be completed and returned within a certain time frame, they will give you specifics when you order. I also make sure to order them in advance, so they arrive when I need them.
If you don’t hold a BA you can still administer tests at home by using the CAT tests. You can purchase them from Christian Liberty Press. They are a bit shorter so they don’t take as long, and they are also a less expensive option as well!
If you do not wish to test your kiddos at home, you will need to find a certified testing administrator in your area. You can contact BJU Press for help finding registered test administrators. Also, make sure to check with local homeschool organizations they often offer group testing and discounts, in addition, many umbrella schools offer testing services even if you do are not registered with them.
Option 2: Practice Tests: If you’re just wanting an evaluation for the year, or if you want to practice, you can order practice tests from BJU Press as well. They are less expensive and still give a good level of practice for teacher and student.
Tip from the trenches: If you know you are going to test this year, be proactive and set a date to order tests so they arrive close to when you finish school for the year. I waited until July to test and kids tend to “forget things” once they go into summer brain mode. Next year I’ll make sure to order so we test right at the end and then we can relax for the summer.
STEP 2. Administer Tests. I did these separately due to differing grade levels. You’ll want to pick a well lit spot and provide a quiet time with little distraction, for us this meant during nap time. The other kids were directed to watch a movie and stay quiet until the testee was finished. We chose to do a few tests each day. If you follow the test schedule in your book you’ll see it can take up to a week to complete the tests if you do 2-3 per day. I found my kids did better when we did a couple per day as opposed to doing them all in one day, but you could certainly choose to do that. We had “Testing Week” at our house and at the end of the week, we took them out for ice cream to celebrate!
Tip from the trenches: Have plenty of sharpened pencils and scratch paper available before starting.
STEP 3. Send in your completed tests. You’ll want to follow all return directions for whatever tests you purchased. Flip through your test booklets and make sure there are no stray marks or incomplete dots filled in so as not to skew your results. Make sure all items to be included are sent back or your results will not be processed. Iowa’s will require you to use a service such as FedEx or UPS so the package is trackable.
STEP 4. File your results: If it is a required testing year for you, you’ll want to submit your test scores to the appropriate location. You will need to find out what is required in your state, in ours, I am required to submit my testing results on odd years starting at the end of grade 3 to my local school district, or I can also submit them to my umbrella school. In some cases, if you are enrolled in a public school-funded options program (a.k.a. “Friday School” and the like) you are required to keep records of testing yourself. Either way, you’ll need to find the appropriate method of submitting results for your state and follow those rules.
For more information on testing options and your state laws visit www.hslda.org.
Now that we’ve completed our first year of testing, I want to assure you that it is not as difficult as you may think it is. The tests are fairly easy to order, administer, and submit. Our kids did very well on them and it was a nice reassurance to me that we are doing well in our decision to homeschool. I do have a few areas to work on, and that is a good thing to find out as well.
Please note: This post is not to be considered as legal advice. You will need to check www.hslda.org for testing requirements in your state.