Do you require your children to take standardized tests each year? I know this can be a controversial subject for many homeschool parents. Many choose not to test yearly, because of the expense. Some parents just don’t think it is important, or that it’s an invasion by the government. I’ve even heard some parents say that their children will never go to college, so they don’t need to start testing.
We made the decision to have our children tested each year for many reasons. One of the most important reasons to test yearly, is to help the children be comfortable with testing. The more you complete standardized tests, the better you will feel about taking tests. Most people get better at taking tests, by having experiences testing.
Another reason to test is for accountability. Using the same type of test each year offers a steady base to show if there has been improvement or regression in each subject area. This helps homeschool parents decide each year if their curriculum and/or teaching methods were appropriate for each child. It’s not fun to evaluate yourself as a teacher, but it’s necessary, nonetheless.
We can argue for years about how standardized tests don’t reflect what students have mastered. I agree that this is true, in some ways. But, I would never suggest to teach to the test. I believe that the children must be provided with a very thorough education. The tests are just there for us to use to our benefit.
The next reason I have for testing is that children need to be prepared for college and/or anything that they feel called to pursue as an adult. We don’t know if they’ll need a college degree or not. It’s best to push them to complete the toughest educational plan that they can. In this way, they won’t be limited later because they don’t have a good foundation in each subject area.
So many times children grow up and change their mind, or feel called in a different direction than they had planned. If they have huge gaps in certain subjects, they won’t be able to progress as they should.
Testing always made my children more confident. Sometimes children are aware that they are being compared to their public-school peers. They may even doubt that mom and dad are qualified to be their teachers. When my children saw their test scores each year, they were able to see how they stood up in national comparisons. We always had open conversations about what we might change in the following year.
It’s good to let your children own their education. Testing really makes this clear and is part of their growing-up process. Parents can explain why one score may have improved, such as: math drills really paid off, etc…
Tests come in a variety of levels: length, cost, and thoroughness. One of the cheapest and shortest tests is the CAT from Seton School. We have used it and the reason I recommend it is that the scores stayed relatively the same vs a long-test, like Iowa Basics or BJU. Some tests must be administered to a college graduate and others must have a certified teacher. Many homeschool groups or co-ops offer testing days/weeks. They have certified teachers to oversee the tests. We usually did our tests at home.
If you have a special-needs student or just special circumstances, there are other ways to test. I had one child (kindergarten through 2nd grade) that just didn’t understand how tests worked. This child just picked the answers according to the picture that was preferred. It was a little funny, but also frustrating. I found a special teacher who did oral testing with this child, until there was more maturity. This worked very well, and after a few years, this child was ready for paper tests.
So, if you don’t want to administer tests yourself, seek out those veterans who probably know how to find you just the right solution in your city. Testing doesn’t have to be traumatic. Parents have a huge influence over how their children perceive tests. Giving children a reason and explanation of how it works will relieve any anxiety.
@2017, copyright Lisa Ehrman