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Standardized tests are a hot topic in the education world. Public schools frequently take standardized testing to the extreme and create a high stress environment for students. It doesn’t have to be this way. Homeschool testing can be a different experience.
About half of all states require homeschoolers to show proof of progress each year and standardized tests are one accepted form of proof. I have found that many new homeschool parents worry about homeschool testing more than they worry about any other component of homeschooling.
As a former classroom teacher, turned homeschool mom, let me give you a suggestion.
Standardized tests do not have to be the great evil that the media portrays!
I administer a standardized test to both of my children every year, and will continue to do so even if we ever live in a state that does not require proof of progress.
Homeschool Testing Benefits
There are two main reasons that I test my children every year – assessment and preparation.
The true purpose of standardized testing is to assess a student’s knowledge. It identifies strengths and weaknesses. That is it. Testing well does not make a student smart or stupid. Testing well does not make a student good or bad. It simply shows what a student knows on a particular day.
One of the huge advantages of homeschooling is that we are the teacher, principal, and school board – all in one. We get to make all of the educational decisions for our family.
We can use the test results to help our students because we have the flexibility and power to switch curriculums!
Let me give you an example. One year we used a popular grammar curriculum that had received rave reviews. Each week Hannah dutifully completed her assignments. However, she did not do well on the grammar section of the standardized test. She was simply not retaining the material long term. This really surprised me. What good is teaching the material if the information isn’t being retained? We switched to a different grammar curriculum the next year and she improved greatly.
We were able to put the test results to good use and improve her education.
Other times Hannah and Ben have tested very well in subjects and we used that feedback as reassurance that their current curriculum (sometimes purchased, sometimes homemade) was working well.
Preparation for High Stakes Tests
High stakes tests are standardized tests where the results have the potential to alter a person’s life. These tests include college entrance exams such as the SATs and ACTS and any career related tests.
We like to think that standardized testing ends when a child graduates school, but in many career fields this just isn’t true.
I had to take and pass the Praxis exams before earning a teaching certificate. Each state sets their own Praxis requirements so I had to take different portions of the test for a Virginia teaching license and a different portion for my Louisiana teaching certificate.
My husband works in the tech industry and has taken many standardized tests for various certifications. He aims to take one every single year! These tests are not cheap so it was to his advantage to pass them on the first try.
Homeschool testing year after year gives students real test taking experience that can not be replicated. Test taking is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced.
I want my children to learn now that they do not need to fear high stakes tests. They are capable of doing well through preparation and careful test taking strategies. And if they don’t do well, it just identifies areas that need improvement.
Which Standardized Test is Best?
This is a hard question to answer, because there isn’t a single one best test for every homeschool.
When I was deciding which test to administer, I had a few criteria:
I wanted to administer the test at home. I aim to keep testing as low stress as possible so I like the familiar environment of testing at home. This may change once my children are older and are actively preparing for college entrance exams. Not every test is able to be administered by parents.
I wanted a paper and pencil version. This is purely my personal preference, but I didn’t want to worry about any internet connectivity issues during testing time.
These criteria lead me to choose the Terra Nova test. I order the same test (different grades, of course) from Seton Testing every year.
The process is very simple. Seton sends me the tests and I follow the included directions. Administering the test basically boils down to reading a script and watching a timer. After the tests are completed, I mail the test packets back to Seton for them to score. Within a few weeks the results are in my email. It is nice and simple.
Here is a comparison guide for nationally normed standardized tests available to homeschool students.
Do you utilize homeschool testing? Which test do you use?
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