Home educators must consider important questions regarding the issue of academic testing. Ask and answer these questions as you prepare to assess your child’s progress.
Why should we have our child assessed or tested? One very practical reason is that your state law may specify that you must. Whether or not the state is overstepping its authority with such a law is a question for another time. Knowing the homeschool law in your state is only the first step in this consideration. For some their state law requires some sort of testing annually and some state require testing at only certain grade levels, every two or three years. Some state laws specify which tests, types of tests and who can administer the test.
Besides the law, having your child assessed or tested can provide a third-party evaluation of the progress your child is making. I do recognize that parents know their child much better than any other person, regardless of the training of either the parent or the test administrator. However, we may have a blind spot regarding some areas. Test results can provide direction and encouragement. To maximize the information you receive you should interview the test administrator to learn if that individual will provide the information that you need or want from the process. The test administrator may also be able to answer other questions regarding educating your child.
Another reason to have your child assessed is to prepare a child for future testing for college or for obtaining a job. When done on an annual basis, a child is more likely to take in stride any of the normal “butterflies in the stomach” he may experience.
What kind of test / assessment should we use? Again, refer to your state law to determine what types of tests or assessments will fulfill the law. You may decide that what you need is a different assessment tool so you may choose to do one to comply with the state and another to gather the information you require.
There are two general types of tests that would usually be used for an annual assessment. First, consider a standardized, normed test. Test makers standardize the way the test is administrated so that when they use an average sample group of test takers, they can compare your child’s scores with the scores with the “norming group.” These are often more objective than the second type. Second, there are non-test assessments. In the state of Washington, the non-test assessment is not defined, but the one administering it must be a certified teacher currently working in the field of education. Your state may define this second choice more specifically. In Washington, teachers who administer non-test assessments may use a variety of tools and / or may evaluate student work in the different subjects. Your interview will help you find an administrator and an assessment right for your child. Most children feel less stress with the non-test assessment, and you may be isolating what your child knows from learning how well your child tests.
It is possible that your child will benefit from diagnostic testing – to find holes in learning or testing to determine if there is a learning difficulty.
What questions should we ask as I interview a test administrator? Here are some to get you started: 1. Where do you administer tests? (You may rule some out based on how close you live and if you are willing to make the trip for the times and frequency required. Plus, online assessments are now readily available.) 2. What tests do you administer? 3. What kind of results will I get? 4. When will I get the results? 5. Will I need to stay on the premises (or in the room with the child if via the internet) during the testing? 6. Or, may I sit in during the assessment? 7. How long will the test take? 8. What are your qualifications for administering this test / assessment?
9. How long have you been testing? 10. How much does the testing cost? 11. Based on this information (what you provide) which test would you recommend for my child? 12. If a group test, how many will be in the testing?
For information regarding homeschooling testing and other matters, contact the Home School Legal Defense Association: http://www.hslda.org They provide information regarding the homeschool laws in all 50 states as well as state-wide homeschool organizations. It is a great first website for homeschooling.
Maggie Dail directs Unlocking Learning Potential, a group of educators that provide online services for homeschoolers. Unlocking Learning Potential is affiliated with Academy Northwest and Family Academy. Maggie and her husband, Ronnie, home schooled two foster sons and have worked with home schooling families full time since 1994. Maggie earned her M.A. in Special Education in 1989 and has taught for nearly 50 years.
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