Standardized tests assess how your children are doing in comparison with others in the same grade level. There are many tools available, and some factors that homeschoolers should keep in mind when considering how ~ and if ~ to administer them.
Understanding how well your child is learning, and how to tell if they’re ready to move up to the next grade level is a concern that many new homeschoolers share with me and probably one of the easier ones to address. Of course, since many of us grew up in public or private schools, the first tool we think of to judge success is standardized testing, such as the ITBS tests or other privately-administered achievement tests.
But there are other ways to determine academic proficiency.
First of all, as you spend time teaching, you’ll gradually begin to see how your child learns, and from there how best to assess their level of learning.
- If your child is verbal, a great way to see if they “get” the material is to ask them to narrate to you a summary of the topic, or chapter or what have you…
- If they’re kinesthetic, or a hands-on learner, help them to come up with a project they can build or create to display what they have learned…
Reasons to include Standardized Tests in Your Homeschool
When it comes to the “end of the year” testing, there are reasons you’d want to use some form of testing that will remain consistent from year to year:
- you’ll be able to see patterns of learning,
- where his or her strengths lie, and
- what you may need to focus on next year.
Standardized tests can give you part of the educational picture of your child. While many homeschoolers balk at anything with the word “standard” or “standardized” in it, you should at least consider these tests as your children age and get closer to high school. During this time, if they are college-bound, they will need to be able to handle SATs, ACTs and/or other timed “bubble” tests, so these tests can be a good preparation for those years…
Additionally, many States require some sort of periodic testing, and it’s vital that you become well-versed in your State’s relevant homeschooling laws.
If you’re still on the fence about testing, the homeschooling section at “about.com” has some great articles on the pros and cons of standardized tests, as well as a more specific piece on homeschoolers and standardized tests.
Once you’re “ready to roll”…here’s a primer on the subject!
Generally-speaking, there are 2 types of standardized tests:
- norm-referenced, or Nationally-normed, which compare student performance to that of other U.S. students; and
- criterion-referenced, which are used to measure student performance against a defined set of learning requirements or expectations.
Thankfully, as the years have passed and homeschooling has become a more acceptable method of educating, many standardized test publishers have adapted homeschool versions of what is given in the classroom. Other companies have developed tests specifically for homeschoolers.
Ready, set, GO!
Most importantly, learn what the law says in your state regarding testing requirements. HSLDA has an excellent, user-friendly map with which you can find out your own specifics:
And this is a list of achievement tests by State.
Finally, here are a number of reputable companies that can be a source of home-based tests. Candy and/or I have personally worked with the ones that are starred*.
Pen and paper Standardized Test Providers
- Bob Jones* BJU Press Testing offers the Iowa Tests and Stanford tests to homeschooling families. Be aware that the teaching parent must possess a bachelor’s degree and complete an application form before they will ship you their materials, so plan accordingly.
- Seton Testing* has been providing professional testing service to homeschoolers for over 20 years. (Note: Check test restrictions in some States.)
- Brewer Testing Services assists homeschooling parents with the educational assessment of their students for their own personal use and/or in meeting homeschool guidelines across the United States.
- Bayside School Services This company is owned and operated by homeschooling parents who have graduated “their own” and have been test providers for 17+ years, offering the CTA/5 tests.
Online Standardized Test Providers
- Hewitt Homeschooling Resources* offers a norm-referenced test, called the PASS test, that you can take at home. This particular testing tool has several features that make it especially homeschool-friendly, such as suggestions for achieving academic goals for your child, and test results that show overall achievement as well as performance in each subject area. Their accompanying placement test helps shorten test-taking time by enabling you to test your child at the appropriate level.
- Seton Testing* has the Stanford 10 test available online. (Note: Check test restrictions in some States.)
- Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Testing* is a great option that we recently used for the first time. I was very pleased with their customer service and responsiveness. I elected to administer our annual tests during winter break this year and was pleasantly surprised (elated and grateful, actually) by how flexible they were with scheduling. Basically, you make an appointment to take the test, then, at the pre-scheduled time the test is “released” online and you ‘git ‘er’ done!
(Note: Regarding MAP Testing, when I first spoke to Mrs. Crain about this particular format, she explained to me that our kids should not be alarmed if they don’t understand or correctly answer up to half of the questions! I asked her, with an admitted dose of skepticism, why that was (I mean, how could that be good, right?!). She explained that the software used for the test is adaptive, meaning it adjusts to your child’s level as they answer the questions. As they begin to work, the first 10 questions are used as a barometer which is used to gauge the questions to be administered for the rest of the test. Because of this, you are getting a super-accurate picture of where your child is at this moment of their education. Additionally, because the test is not timed, your child avoids the time-related stress associated with test-taking anxiety. A win-win! And I do have to say that the results, which I received only a few short days later via email, were the most comprehensive I have ever received. I received a total of 23 pages, which included specific areas where they excelled as well as suggested areas for improvement. Click here to see a portion of my son’s partially-redacted results .
Some ways to take the stress and mess out of “test day”
- Check with your local support group and see if they proctor a test;
- get together with another family or two and take the PASS test in the comfort of your own home;
- try an online test for a change and call it a day when they’re through (my kids both finished their MAP tests in under 2 hours);
- end the experience with a party, picnic or afternoon in the park!
When all is said and done, however, remember that there are oh-so-many things standardized tests can’t and don’t measure…
And those may be just the things that make your child unique and your homeschooling experiences something to treasure!
What are your thoughts on standardized tests? How have you incorporated them into your homeschooling efforts?
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