My Least Favorite Part of Schooling: AKA Standardized Testing

Raise your hand if when you were in school you did a little dance when you heard the words Standardized Test Week? Yeah, I didn’t think so! I’m going to tell you a little secret that will probably get me booed in most homeschooling circles: As a kid, I loved test week. I genuinely enjoyed it. Why? Probably because I usually did well, I didn’t typically stress out over them, and the teachers usually felt bad for us and gave us and easy week. Oh, and my secret favorite reason? I would bring a good book with me to read since I was usually one of the first done. 

I know I’m not the norm here and as a former full-time teacher as well as a homeschooling mama, I’m not so in love with them. If I had to take them, no biggie. My girls don’t seem to mind much and usually just say something like, “This is boring,” which I completely agree with!

A few questions always pop up this time of year which I think are valid and useful to discuss so this post will be written as more of a question and answer session.

1. Why do people dislike standardized testing? We all have to do it, so what’s the big deal?
I’m not sure about most people, but my issue with the test has to do with my understanding that no individual should be valued or devalued based solely on the score of a single test. There are so many outside factors which goes into making a good score way beyond mastery and understanding of the content.

The one thing I reiterate over and over to my children is no test score will change their value and worth in God’s eyes or my own.

2. If you dislike this idea so much, why do you to it?

There are two reasons I participate in standardized testing. The first, and most important, is that my state requires it. It is vital that you know your state laws regarding this issue when you begin homeschooling. The last thing you want to have happened is your right to homeschool taken away simply because you didn’t do the research! A great place to start with this is Homeschool Legal Defense Association. This organization defends homeschooling freedoms and gives very sound advice. This page will get you started in finding out what your individual state’s laws are.

My second reason is to cover my bases. I don’t actually have to officially test my children until the school-year they turn eight. For all three of my kids this will be third grade. Before that time I want this to just be a normal part of their year so it isn’t such a big deal. I also am very aware that the current climate of our nation and schools makes me feel very strongly that I do not want to be forced to place my children into the public system. The tests are a tool in my kit to make sure I can confidently and calmly answer any questions which may arise at any point they do.

3. What test do you use?
For K-2nd grade I use the CAT (California Achievement Test). This is the same test I took growing up and I feel it is adequate to show where my kids stand within their grade-level. Next year my oldest daughter will be officially required to have a test administered and I’m considering a different test administered by someone else. I’ll be researching this a lot throughout the year and hope to find something I am happy with.

4. Where do you order the test from? 
I purchase my test from Seton Testing Services. I am in no way affiliated with this company, but have found them to be quick to ship, inexpensive, and quick to return scores. They offer a wide range of tests and state clearly on their website the requirements for administration.

5. How do you administer the tests? 
I test one daughter at a time and it is just she and I together. Either my husband takes my other girls to the church office with him (benefits of being a pastor!) or they get to have movie time in my room snuggled in my bed. Either situation works out fine and I’m able to keep the daughter completing the test focused and on task.

Just like with school I give breaks based on their individual needs. Sometimes the break involves a little snack or water, sometimes stretching, and sometimes a bounce around the house on an exercise ball. One daughter may get 4 breaks and another 2. Since each child is unique and I have the freedom to administer at home I give a little more freedom with this.

The two rules I make them follow are:
1. No eating or drinking during the test
2. No getting up until they reach a stop

6. How long does it take?
No more than 1 hour for each test including the breaks. The tests are timed, but this year my girls finished with ample time to spare.

7. How do your children do during the test?
Very well! They are fairly calm, ask questions when they need to, and don’t get upset when I say, “I’m sorry. I can’t answer that one.” I pray with them prior to the test and remind them that no matter how they do I’m pleased with their diligent effort.

8. Would you test if you weren’t required to?
Probably, yes. I can’t say for sure since I’m not in that situation, but I believe I would to adequately prepare them for inevitable testing for college and to be fully prepared to answer any questions anyone may ask me about my daughters’ education and success.

Here are some other articles you may find interesting.
http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200410250.asp

http://www.hslda.org/earlyyears/Testing.asp

I’d love to hear about if you test in your homeschool or why you don’t and how it looks for you. We are all unique and I love hearing how other families walk through testing! Oh, and do your pets participate like our’s do?

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