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Homeschool 101: Testing

Posted by on 14 March 2009


Around this time of the year, many people start talking about testing. Spring is the time of year when most schools begin their yearly testing. Testing is the basic way to see how students are progressing. Even many homeschoolers choose to test. Some do it just to see how their kids are doing, while others are preparing their children to move on to other things like college.

Testing is the type of situation that people have to get used to.  Some people don’t test well at all, while others thrive.  Sometimes it’s just stressful and sometimes it’s just a matter of going blank.  Either way, it’s a good idea to see how your kids handle it and to see just where they place with the national average.

This year since we’re just starting, I’m choosing not to test Miss K.  She’s been tested ever since she started school and has always fared well.  In both public and private school, she did the ITBS.  That is, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  She’s always scored well above her grade level and I don’t feel the need to get her prepared for testing.  She handles the situation well and is familiar with the process. 

Next year, I will probably test her just to see how she does and if she still handles it well.  I’ll also want to see if I’m teaching her enough and enforcing good study habits.  I have no doubts that I’m giving her a good education, but I want to make sure that she’s at least where she was progress wise and that it’s a process that she’s familiar with.  As a parent and her teacher, I want to know if we have any weak areas and what our strong areas are.

With all that said, testing is a personal choice for each family.  That is, unless it’s required by the state that you live in for homeschooling.  I thought that I’d take this opportunity to give out information on different tests that can be administered by either a parent or administrator.  There are 2 types of standardized tests and they are: 

  1. norm-referenced tests, used to compare student performance to that of other students; and
  2. criterion-referenced tests, used to measure student performance against a defined set of learning requirements or expectations.

Now, after an extensive search of names of achievement tests and what they covered, I was exhausted and had little information.  I finally went to an e-mail that I received and it had definitions from Georgia Home Education Association (GHEA).  I’m going to stick with that site because it’s very informative and give you their explanations.  The 5 most commonly used achievement tests are:

1.  Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) – This is a top-rated nationally standardized achievement test designed to evaluate thinking skills. This test takes less time to administer than the Stanford and permits a wider grade range of students to be tested at the same time. This test is considered to be among the most difficult tests. Grades 3-8 may be tested together; grades 9-12 may be tested together. Qualifications for test administration: a 4-year baccalaureate degree in any field. Directions for administration are supplied at no additional cost. Tests are supplied and returned to suppliers for scoring. Tests are given orally through grade 2.

2.  Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) – Not to be confused with the Scholastic Aptitude Test (also SAT). A top-rated nationally standardized test for K-12. Listening skills are included for K – 8th grade. The test administrator must have a baccalaureate degree in any field, plus meet additional test administering guidelines. The publisher of this test has strict guidelines that must be followed when testing any relative. The test supplier can supply you with specifics before ordering the test. Qualifications for test administrators and directions for administration must be purchased.

3a.  California Achievement Test (CAT) – This test is popular among Christian schools and home schools because it contains more traditional values than other tests listed. Parents administer the test and send it back to be scored and returned. You must request percentile scoring and /or stanine results or you will only receive raw scores and grade equivalents. This test is intended for grades 2 – 12.

3b.  California Achievement Test (CAT/5) – This test is an updated version of the CAT. For grades K-12; tests reading, language, spelling, mathematics, study skills, science and social studies.

4.  Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) – The CTBS tests all academic areas including reading, language arts, spelling, math, science, social studies and reference skills for grades 1 – 12. With the CTBS scores, you receive a professional critique.

5.  Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS) – The PASS Test was developed specifically for home schoolers. It has certain similarities to other achievement tests in that it estimates student achievement in the subjects of reading, language, and math. For grades 3 – 8.

So the question really is, do I test or not test??  We’ve made our decision for this year.  Next year….that’s another story!!

In my next installment of Homeschool 101, I’ll discuss the costs of testing and the different ways that they can be administored along with organizations/businesses that offer standardized testing.

One Response to Homeschool 101: Testing

  1. Kathy

    Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again. Time for me to order our tests. I like to test the boys because I want to know where they are – where they may need some help. Thanks for all the info you shared – I’ll take a look at these.

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