Homeschool Standardized Testing….to test or not to test? That is the question at hand today!

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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.

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 at HSLDA Website. If you are going to do 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’ll need to send in a copy of your Bachelor’s diploma. I faxed it over and received approval within about 10 days. Tests must be completed and returned within a certain time frame, they will give you specifics when you order.

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 don’t 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.

 

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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 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 re-assurance 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.

29 Comments

  1. Erica, Thank you so much for this information. I have been terrified to figure out all of these testing needs. It is now required in the state of SC and i needed this very much. I am not so scared anymore.

    As a side note, I am new to the your blog ( any for that matter) and I am loving your commentary and ideas. Thank you so much for your time and sharing your love for teaching your children. I am looking forward to the school year “with you.”

    Jennifer
    1. Well see there, I was misinformed. I just looked up your website recommendation and found it’s not required at all for us. But I want to purchase the practice ones, to keep track of her progress. Thanks again!

      Jennifer
  2. I was just thinking about this last week. ….not that we need to test right now since we’re still doing K4 and PA only requires testing in grades 3. 5. and 8. But the post prompted me to look up the list of approved tests since I had heard that the list had changed recently. We have 8 different tests to choose from, which surprised me.

  3. My son loves these tests…….lol. We test every other year and make a big day out of it (we do about 3 days) and have special lunches and fun stuff. I make it out to be an exciting thing and he has fun. Last year we tested another homeschooler and made a fun time out of it. This boy was 13yrs old and had never tested before, he had no idea how to fill in the ovals or any of that. So that was great to learn for him, since when it would be time for the ACT or SAT they don’t show you how to fill in the bubbles!

    I tell others that if they are worried about where the kids are, then test and go from there. If the results are not great, then guess what? You now have the much needed info on what areas to work on. No big deal.

  4. We live overseas and don’t have any testing requirements, but our kids take the Iowa tests every year at an international school near us. We see it a preparation for important standardized tests that they will take later. The test scores are also just another way for us to track progress.

  5. This is a great article! I live in a state where there is no regulations what so ever and for that reason I don’t plan to test my children till they are planning to exit the high school years. I appreciate your positive outlook on the testing.

  6. Thank you for sharing about your testing experience. It can be intimidating to home educators, so encouragement is definitely welcome. Our testing has been pretty positive, so that’s been good. There was a speaker at the homeschool conference this year who said that it was NOT a positive experience for his wife. She already knew where her kids were struggling and even had previous teaching experience and a degree. (Not that a degree is necessary. Stats are just as good for moms who don’t.) Anyway, the testing would stress her out and make her feel inadequate. Her husband helped her to see that it wasn’t positive for their family. So, they continued to follow state law for testing, but she wasn’t privy to the test results. Since she already knew where the kids needed help and they were continually improving, it helped her to be more positive and the kids did well. Just mentioning this for anyone who is in that boat. Not every home educated child will be at the top of the charts. But, with mama and daddy there to help them continually improve, that is still the best education for that child. 🙂

    Carrie
  7. I think this is an important step in the education process that can often be left out during home schooling. Every parent needs to do this at least once a year to ensure their educational process is working.

  8. I came over here to read this post from the blog you sent out today. I have a question. Since I do not have a college teaching degree, will I be able to administer these tests to my children? My state does not require testing, but it is something I think is necessary for prep and for my own knowledge of how my children are doing. What do you suggest?

    Rebekah
    1. Hi Rebekah,
      You don’t need a teaching degree, but you do need a Bachelor’s degree in something in order to do the Staford or Iowa tests. If you don’t have a BA in anything, then you could still administer the CAT tests.

      erica
  9. Just wanted to warn people about ordering the Iowa tests from BJU Press. They are definitely profit oriented. I was charged an extra $30 because I ordered my kid’s tests 4 weeks before I was to administer them. (Mind you I tried to order them earlier) Then they sent me damaged, wrinkled and tattered books that were written and erased in multiple times. They sat on my dining room table for 3 weeks (which I had to pay $30 extra to look at them sitting there for weeks) Then they had the audacity to hold my test scores hostage until I paid an extra $9 because I returned the books in the exact same condition I received them. I am furious with them. Beware, they nickle and dime people and that doesn’t sit well with me from a supposedly Christian organization.

    Melinda Algera
    1. Hi Melinda,
      That’s such a bummer! I’ve ordered from them for years and never had any issues. I do order them a bit early, they take about 2 weeks to get here. So I just order them about 2 weeks before I want to test, but I’ve never been charged extra for ordering too early. There is a time frame you have to ship them back by, I’m guessing to try and prevent people from copying materials, as well as to get them back in a timely manner so they can be resent out to other testers, so that must be why. Sorry you had a bad experience.

      erica
      1. LOL! Okay, I shouldn’t have said anything. This year we did get charged for marks in one of the test booklets. They charged me $9 to replace the book. But that’s the first time we’ve had that happen.

        erica
    2. We’ve had similar experiences with BJU Press testing materials. Last year they claimed damage upon receipt of the returned materials and charged us for a whole new set. This year, I thought I was covered with all the USPS insurance, tracking, etc., but then they claimed that pages had impressions, as if one had written answers on a paper laid atop the booklet. Our child didn’t do this, and we didn’t notice it during the time we had the packet. For this they charged $13. Not sure what BJU will do with the $13 – I wouldn’t think impressions could be repaired.

      Kevin

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