Homeschool Standardized Test Options

♥ TruthAs one of the fastest growing methods of education, options available for homeschoolers are growing accordingly. Over the years, the availability of different types of standardized tests has made testing our homeschool children much easier.

Getting Started with Standardized Testing

Standardized Test requirements by state is the first place you should look. It’s vital that you know and understand what your state requires from you as a homeschooler. Once you’ve determined if your state requires you to administer a standardized test to your children, you can move ahead with complying.

Which Standardized Test is Best

While there are many different tests available as options. There are a few that stand out simply because they are tried and true. A few of those are:

The Stanford 10 – We’ve used this test for many years. It’s a good option and one that can be given easily with a group of students. Typically this is a group administered test, however there are 3rd parties who allow for you to purchase this test from them and administer at home.

The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test – This is a great test that I’ve used many times. This test cannot be administered by a parent, it requires that a professional with necessary qualifications administer the test. This test is great for students who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The proctor can account for those differences in each situation.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills – another “oldy but goody”… I took this test as a young child. Though updated several times since then, this test is definitely a good example. This test is also typically group administered, but is available through many different 3rd party test providers.

The OLSAT and CogAT tests test School Ability Index or what used to be known as Intelligence Quotia or IQ.

Where’s a Good Place to Take the Test

While some people have begun to take their standardized tests online, I do prefer tests of this type to be done in person. However, ease of use makes the online option very desirable for most homeschoolers. You can usually take standardized tests with your local homeschool co-op. There are also 3rd party testing centers where you can test.

Which Tests Should We Take

There are two types of standardized tests that are most commonly given to school aged children. These consist of achievement tests, and ability tests (IQ). Achievement tests test what the child has been able to achieve or learn over the course of the year.   If you test every year, you don’t need to test IQ (School Ability Index-SAI) each year. The SAI tests a child’s innate ability to learn. Most often when taken together the tests compare the child’s abilities to what they are actually achieving… letting us as parents know if they are really applying themselves.  The School Ability Index doesn’t change dramatically over a year. I would suggest that the SAI test be given once every 3 years. In our state of GA, testing is only required once every 3 years. So, when we do test – I usually do a combo test. This year we will be using the Stanford10/OLSAT for the last time. The Stanford will be retiring after this year.

Should we take different tests for different grade Levels?

Whether your child is using elementary homeschool curriculum or high school you can use the same “brand” of test. In fact, I would suggest sticking with that brand of test as you school your children. It’s not a huge concern, but each test is a little different and staying with one style of test will help you compare their achievement more acurately.

To test or not to test?

homeschool testingTesting is a controversial subject even within homeschooling circles. For many, testing is a means of scoring achievement in a mass produced way. If this is true, then homeschooled children who are watched and worked with daily by their mentors (parents) would have no need for testing. Unless, there had to be proof of achievement.

I believe this is where most homeschoolers agree. Testing is not a necessary aspect of education as long as a child is achieving and learning. A parent can use informal methods of assessment such as label the states on this map, or dissect this flower and tell me the names of each part.

Assessment is useful, but paper pencil testing isn’t always necessary. For example, when learning how to write – a paper pencil test isn’t the best measurement. However, actually writing and using the skills for authentic assessment is more applicable.  In fact, if I can teach my child how to write an essay to describe a particular learning experience, then the student will have to use many levels of thought instead of just answering rote memory questions on a test. It is so much better, to somehow get the student to internalize the knowledge instead of just memorize it.  I personally believe that once my child enters high school testing becomes a necessary evil. If the student plans on going to college a transition to typically formal testing must be made.

However, for homeschoolers the state will often make this decision for us. If the state that you live in requires that you test either formally at home, or by using a standardized test you must submit to that standard.

What is your take on testing? Do you test your children with paper pencil tests? Or do you use informal testing?

Standardized Testing…

Standardized testing can be a very controversial topic within the homeschooling community. Some look at the homeschool standardized testing as a way to see where our children are at… others view the tests as intrusive and simply a means to impinge on our privacy.

As a previous teacher, I do take the standpoint of using these tests as a means of determining where my children are. I enjoy seeing if they are at or above their “typical” grade level… which most of the time they are above grade level… to me it is a way to do a little “victory dance.” I can see that my goals and objectives are being met, and my children are exceeding the states’ expectations.

If you are interested in getting your child tested there are plenty of options. You can contact your local school to see if they allow homeschoolers to test with their students, you can contact a local private school (these tend to be more accomodating to homeschoolers and charge a reasonable fee), or you can locate a private testing agency. Whichever route you choose, please realize that this is simply a single test, and not an all inclusive indicator of your child’s learning. Simply use it as a single tool. One that can help the parents see what they need to be doing, and one that can help the student see how they can improve.

Using the Performance Assessment

 

Making children learn facts for rote memory testing is simply a waste of time. I know thats a pretty bold statement, but really if children are learning and memorizing facts to just regurgitate them on a test they will not retain those facts for long. However, if a child is allowed to experience, manipulate, discover, and draw conclusions the information related to those facts will remain in their memories much longer. Take spelling lists for example, my children will not remember even popular word lists for long if they don’t use the words in practical applications.

One of the best ways to assess a child’s learning is through performance assessments. In a performance assessment children demonstrate their proficiency through a project, an online exhibit, a science fair, an oral presentation…etc. The performance assessment allows the student to show you what they have learning in real world context situations. Reliance on paper pencil tests should be limited and balanced with other methods of assessment. Homeschooling is a great setting to take advantage of performance assessment.

SAT Prep – Get in the Groove

As a tutor for high school students, I have noticed over the past several years that students loooovvvveee to wait to the last minute. They even wait to the last minute when they are preparing for the SAT and ACT tests! They come to me in the final few weeks prior to the test and ask me to prepare them. What they are looking for isn’t a tutor – but a miracle worker!!

In fact, preparation for the SAT or ACT tests should begin several years before you actually take the test. High school students should arrange their education and courses with college preparation in mind. Students should examine their high school work to be sure that they are meeting the requirements.

Here are a few points to ponder when evaluating if your homeschooled student is prepared or not:

1) Have you been using a challenging spelling/vocabulary program for your student since 9th grade? You can use great tools like Spelling and Vocabulary City to make this easy. Students should be stretching themselves with each new spelling list. Remember, spelling and vocabulary preparation is a sizeable part of the ACT and SAT tests.
2)Have your students been writing clear concise essays? The introduction of the essay and SAT writing practice should occur at least by ninth grade – I prefer earlier. Summing up essay writing into just a few simple steps: Plan for 5 paragraphs-one introduction – 2 or 3 body points/paragraphs – and one conclusion that restates your 3 body points. An essay should be written from a given theme or question statement. The essay should also be able to be written within 25 minutes, using example from literature, history, and personal life.
3)Are you challenging yourself with math courses? Don’t skimp on math preparation. The SAT and ACT tests mainly use questions from geometry and Algebra II. If your student thought they would take the easy road and just do basic math or accounting they will not score as high as they could have if they challenged themselves in this area. Yes, math can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. There are lots of great math tutorials that will help get these difficult points across.
4)Is your student consistently reading and reading critically? By the time a student reaches high school they should be avid readers. Yet, not just readers but readers that analyze what they are reading and think about underlying themes and motives as well as plot projections. Encourage them to THINK while they read.

Homeschool Report Card – 5 things to know about SATs

Everything needs checks and balances… accountability is a good thing…

I know in my own life I tend to do a better job, and put more effort into something if I know that I must be accountable for it.  Though state testing requirements vary, many homeschooling students across the country are requried to participate in standardized testing. States require this testing to ensure that students are learning and progress is being made.

1) Standardized tests are for the measurement of a child’s achievement. These tests do not measure students ability or aptitude, that is measured on a separate test (such as the Otis Lennon). Aptitude tests measure the school ability index or what used to be called IQ.

2) Most standardized tests assess only language arts and math. But, prior to having your child tested ask the administrator of the test what subtests are included and then make preparations for SAT study courses, or by purchasing prep books.

3) These tests are called stadardized because the test was taken by a sample set of students who took the test at the same time of year. The test makers take this sample group’s average score and allow it to represent the 50th percentile.

4) Using the same test from year to year for your child’s assessment will ensure a more acurate comparison of norms.

5) The student’s typically do just fine with taking the test, it’s the parents we often worry about!  So, take it easy, mom and dad.  Remember, that this is just one test and is not the “big picture” of your child’s learning. An accurate picture of how your child is achieving will include what they are learning in school, what they are learning at home, and how they do on SATs.

Other related posts:

Homeschooling in the South

Part 3 – Testing Series

Part 1 – How do you like your percentile?