Good morning everyone! How many of you administer standardized testing to your students each year? We test annually starting in 2nd grade. I like to start in 2nd grade as a practice year for my kids to help them get prepared for 3rd grade when scores have to be submitted.

I get a lot of questions on why I chose the Iowa Standardized Tests. We chose it because it seems to be a middle of the road not too hard, but not too easy test. To shed more light on that answer I’m going to give you a little bit of information on each test below. Hopefully this will help some of you when deciding which tests to select for your family. So if you’re interested, keep reading!

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When To Test

Our state requires testing or assessments to be performed for children on odd grades starting in 3rd grade. That means that every other year you do not have to test your student. But we test annually anyway. I like to use the tests to see how I am doing as well as how much information my children are retaining. While I don’t worry too much about scores, I do think they’re a good way to identify areas where we may be lacking, or areas where we need more work.

Typically I administer the Iowa Standard Tests, however you may also use Stanford Achievement Tests or the California Achievement Tests as well. All three are typically acceptable to any state, however you’ll want to make sure that you’re complying with your state requirements. You can usually find information on your state by calling your own department of education, or local school district.

I also thought it would be a good idea to put this topic in our COAH Community as well to see what all of you do! So make sure to head over to the COAH Community to see what other homeschooling families do for annual testing.

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Iowa Standardized Test

The Iowa standardized test is a top-rated, nationally standardized test developed to evaluate thinking skills. It takes a bit less time than the Stanford Achievement Test, and allows for a wider range of students to be tested at the same time. Reviews consider The Iowa test to be a middle of the road test, not too easy and hot too hard. Time limits range from 9 minutes – 30 minutes for lower grade tests, and about 45 minutes for high school grades. Iowa tests are available from grade 2 and up. Administers must meet certain criteria to be allowed to administer the tests. I believe that predicted SAT and ACT test scores will also come with your high school Iowa Test results.

The Stanford Achievement Test

The Stanford Achievement Test is also a top-rated standardized test. It is believed by many to be the most rigorous tests of the three. The reading comprehension portion of the tests requires more inductive reasoning skills according, and averages about 45 minutes to complete each test. The math portion also seems to take most students much longer than the suggested testing times. It also includes scores from Science/Social Studies in the Complete Composite score. Testing administrators for the Stanford tests also need to meet certain requirements.

California Achievement Test (CAT)

The California Achievement Test is very popular among Christian schools and homeschools because it takes a bit less time to administer, and contains more traditional values. There are not as many tests included in the CAT, so it can be completed in less time for students to complete. It is also considered to be the easiest among the three tests and can be obtained from several online sources. I usually get mine from BJU Press or Christian Liberty Press. You will need to request percentile scoring and/or stanine results, otherwise some providers send only raw scores and grade equivalents.

One reason that homeschoolers may choose to administer the CAT test is that there are not degree requirements for the administrator. So if you do not have a bachelors degree, you can still administer the tests to your own children.

Practice Tests

Many people choose to order practice tests to get their students ready for testing. We have not historically done this, but it might be a good idea if your student has anxiety over testing, or if you feel they need extra practice to help their child. Practice tests are totally optional.

Reviewing Results

I encourage you to use the results to determine areas of weakness in your homeschool, but do not get discouraged if your child has lower than expected results. There can be many factors when taking tests such as these. For example younger children may get confused when reading a question on a booklet, then filling in a dot answer on a separate worksheet. They might also get nervous when timed, exhausted from a long day of test taking, or they may be feeling ill. Make sure to take all of these things into consideration when reviewing your results.

Most states have a minimum allowable score, and if your student tests below that you will probably need to consider retesting. In this event you may wish to do a practice test to help get them used to the testing procedure. If you feel that your child’s results were not an accurate reflection of his/her abilities you may also wish to re-test.

Use the tests to help enhance your curriculum choices for the next year, and add more focus to areas where your students did not do well. Some parents don’t even share the results with their child, but simply use them to help determine their curriculum for the following year. By homeschooling, you should have a good grasp on how your child is doing already, so simply use the tests as a guide to help improve your homeschool.

We normally test every year, starting in grade 2, even though our state only requires us to test on odd grades. I like to do this for two reasons. First, I like to give my children practice taking bubble tests which isn’t something they do on a regular basis in our homeschool. And second, I use the tests to see how I am doing and if we need to spend more time in a certain area where they may be weaker. I start in grade 2 because that gives both myself, and my child, a practice round before they have to take the 3rd grade tests and submit scores to our school district.

We like to break the tests up and do fun activities during testing week. We only do a few tests in the morning, then we take the afternoons for a fun field trip, visit to a park, or other fun outdoor activity. I also like to have special treats and snacks available on our desks during the tests to help keep energy levels up.

Where To Buy

You can purchase most tests through Abeka and BJU Press. I created a testing account with BJU several years ago, so I’ve continued to order from them out of convenience.  You can purchase the California Achievement Tests from several online stores including Seton Testing.

If you are not comfortable administering the tests yourself, there are testing services available as well. You’ll need to check your area to find a testing location in your area. Seton Testing and other online versions are also an option. You might also check with BJU Press. They have a test administrator directory that will search for testers near your area.

Don’t forget to head over to the COAH Community to see what other homeschooling families do for annual testing, and share your insights as well!

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For a step-by-step guide to ordering, administering, and submitting, and reviewing tests check out my Standardized Testing in Your Homeschool post here!

And for more information on testing options and your state laws visit www.hslda.org.

Disclosure: This post is not to be considered as legal advice. You will need to check  your state’s department of education for complete testing requirements in your area.

28 Comments

  1. Do you find the Iowa Test to be an accurate reflection on their knowledge base? I ask because I had the test administered to my now 4th grader this past February and the results were far beyond what I was expecting. It certainly helped to know where we need to work a bit harder.

    Pauline Foster
    1. Hi Pauline,
      honestly the standardized testing results really depend on what you taught that year. Sometimes they do better or worse depending on what we covered. The goals for them are to be an overall assessment of that grade level, but I don’t always think it’s an accurate reflection. Especially if one gets nervous during tests, isn’t feeling well, etc.

      erica
  2. Erica, thanks for all of the help and encouragement that you provide for us! I was wondering if you have any tips on what to do with younger children while our older one is testing.

    Leslie
    1. hi Leslie,
      I try to have activities for them to do in a separate room. It can depend, sometimes one of our grandparents will take her, other times she’ll have a special movie day. We only test for about 3 hours in the morning, then we do something fun in the afternoon, so it’s not too long for her to watch a movie, then do an art project or something like that.

      erica
  3. Our state does not mandate testing – we just have to submit their grades. We take on more of the “unschooling” type of learning so we don’t learn divided subjects. We focus on the interests of the child…and then teach all “subjects” pertaining to that interest.

    Short answer…no we don’t do standardized testing.

    Morgan Buchanan
    1. Tell me how that works with college. If the child is not tested, will they be able to enter a college.
      I really do not want to test. However, I do not want to hinder his ability to get into college if he chooses to go. Thanks for your help in this matter.

      DeDe Rodgers
      1. Hi DeDe,
        Testing really depends on your state requirements. Most states require you to test odd grade years and turn in the results to your local school district. So you’ll want to start there. As far as colleges go I would research which colleges you think your child will be interested in an see what their requirements are. They are all different.

        erica
  4. We live in Wisconsin, so we are not required to report anything about our homeschooling other than enrollment numbers. This is our first year schooling at home and I’ve been worried about how we are doing and thinking about how we could track our progress. This is great information and I will be looking into doing testing even if it is just for our own information. Thanks!

  5. Erica, I just wanted say how much I appreciated your post on standardized testing. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience with this, even after 15 years of homeschooling. I learned a lot from your post and shared it with my readers at Sisterswithasystem.com and my fb followers. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. While HSLDA does not sell any specific tests on our website, we do have links to commonly used tests here: https://hslda.org/content/earlyyears/Testing.asp#Common. The only test we offer through our HSLDA site is the Brigance Diagnostic Inventory, which can be rented by parents. (See info in our online store.) We also have articles on testing at https://hslda.org/content/earlyyears/Testing.asp, and we often have newsletters on this topic each spring (see archive at https://hslda.org/content/earlyyears/Newsletters.asp)

  7. Looking for a comparison between Cal Achievement Test and Iowa. Is it possible to go down in Grade Equivalency just because you switched from one to the other? Also, would a first grade result project a grace equivalency that would be more accurately lowered in the second grade
    results? Puzzled

    Tim Cole
    1. I’m not sure I fully understand your question. But when you order your tests you select the grade your student is in, so if you wanted to select a lower grade I suppose you could do that. However I’m not sure your state would allow you to select a lower grade simply because you were switching test vendors. I would honestly just go with the correct grade level. The tests are geared towards that level and my kids did just find switching from one to another.

      erica
  8. I think the CAT is very off in their scoring. My 6th grade daughter has significant Math delays, yet it scored her 2-3 grade levels above her skill level. She’s an avid reader, and was in the gifted class in public school, but it scored her on grade level and below. I didn’t find the results consistent with either of my children.

    Nicole

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