COAH Community

Standardized Testing... To Do or Not To Do?

Hi everyone! It’s getting that time of the year…testing time :frowning: ugh. It’s not my favorite time of the year, but I thought it would be interesting to hear what everyone does to test/assess their students each year.

I normally use the IOWA Standard tests from BJU Press. You have to provide proof of at least a BA college level degree to be approved as a test administer before you can use them.

We normally test every year, even though our state only requires us to test on odd grades. I like to do this for two reasons. First, I like to give my children practice taking bubble tests which isn’t something they do on a regular basis in our homeschool. And second, I use the tests to see how I am doing and if we need to spend more time in a certain area where they may be weaker. I start in grade 2 because that gives both myself, and my child, a practice
round before they have to take the 3rd grade tests and submit scores to our
school district.

We like to break the tests up and do fun activities during testing week. We only do a few tests in the morning, then we take the afternoons for a fun field trip, visit to a park, or other fun outdoor activity. I also like to have special treats and snacks available on our desks during the tests to help keep energy levels up.

Do you do standardized testing? And if so, which test do you use, and what tips do you have for making test time less painful?

4 Likes

I am a huge fan of the Woodcock Johnson test. It is such a great catalog of skills and is more detailed as it is given verbally and in person. We took it first in OH where you can choose a test or portfolio system. We continue to do a portfolio each year as well, but like you, feel like the test is a good opportunity for me as their teacher to see how they are doing. This will be our 3rd year to do the WJ. I am going to have my kids take the IOWA as well this year as a practice with our homeschool group. I want them to be competent at test taking skills for future use. As for ways to make it less painful - I try not to pressure my kids about it. I actually do not share their individual scores with them from their WJ. I mainly use it to help me be a better teacher and to encourage them to their best. I feel like our attitude makes a huge difference in how our kids perceive the test.

2 Likes

@Erica I hear this question a lot (especially from family members! :slight_smile: Our state only requires testing in 5th, 7th, and 9th grades and we are only in 2nd grade right now with our oldest child, so it’s a ways off for us in our decision-making process (although we could be testing every year in preparation). However, what is your view on subjects like science/history? We are teaching these subjects in our homeschool, of course, but not on the same subject matter that the public schools are. Therefore, my opinion is that my child would do well in areas such as math, vocabulary, reading comprehension, etc. but might not do well in areas of science or history simply because we might be studying a different science and history focus than the public schools are for a given year or over the course of several years. I don’t want to change our course of study in these areas because we have found wonderful curriculum that works well for us and that we chose for a reason for our family, and to change it simply so that they’ll do well on the test seems to be exactly what we don’t like about the public school system when we talk of “teaching to the test.” And yet, in our state, if our child does take the standardized test (we have an option not to) and does poorly for two test cycles in a row (say in 5th and 7th grades), they have the authority to mandate that my child no longer be homeschooled and be placed in public school instead. That’s scary stuff if you ask me! :open_mouth: And yet, we are continually asked about this matter and I am so glad you raised this question here! I would love your opinion on this! Sorry for the lengthy response–can you tell it’s a weighty topic for us? :slight_smile:

1 Like

My state requires testing. Our district offers the Terra Nova test for free so we do that. We are only required to do the test every other year, but for a good comparison I prefer to just do it yearly. I consider it good testing practice for college. (And its free, my motto is ‘If its free, then its for me!’ HAHAHA) :smile: The kids expect it, we don’t make it a big deal.

You make some great points. If our state did not require the testing I’m not sure I would do it… I haven’t thought about that deeply since it isn’t an option!

I do NOT teach the same topics that the public school teaches for each year, but I feel like in the end we will both cover all the same topics! My kids do average to above average in their testing so it hasn’t been a problem so far. (My state also has that threat of making the kids attend public school if they have poor testing scores! Maybe we are neighbors… :slight_smile:

When it comes to Science I think I teach a narrower scope at great depth versus how science is taught in school. For example, we are doing Christian Kids Explore Chemistry this year and Apologia Zoology I this summer.

I am a little nervous this year because I switched my kids to Math u See and while they are doing great with it, it does not cover the same scope that the public school is teaching so I’m nervous and curious to see how testing goes for that. But I agree with you completely, I don’t want to “teach to the test” and I don’t. I think when the time comes for testing you’ll be surprised at how well your kids do!

1 Like

@Jenny Thank you so much for this reply! Your insight was so helpful! We do Elemental Science and are in Biology for the Grammar Stages right now. I love using living books and my children are learning so much about the animals we are studying right now. But our public schools are emphasizing tools scientists use and scientific methods, etc. which just isn’t something we are focusing on right now. I think we will get to that when we get into Chemistry and Physics for the Grammar Stage, and so maybe it would all even out since we will hit those before the first standardized test anyway. I am curious about other science programs though. We are very satisfied with ours but so far it has been very repetitive. I would like a bit more of “mixing it up” from week to week as far as the activities and maybe that’s something I should be doing more of on my own? I’ve heard good things about Apologia and I am very curious about Answers in Genesis (God’s Design for Science). Thank you again for your reply–it is so helpful to hear from someone else who tests but doesn’t focus on teaching to the test. We are in Tennessee :slight_smile: I didn’t realize other states had that same “threat” of making kids cease homeschooling if test scores fall too low–what state are you in? Just curious? :slight_smile:

Since last year was our first year homeschooling (4th Grade), I was super-paranoid about making sure we had our testing done for state requirements (WA). I found someone who did home testing (Washington Homeschool Organization lists available testers on their webpage). She was a certified teacher & also homeschooled. She just looked at our work from the year & compared it to our state standards & then wrote up a summary of her findings & what we could work on. It was pretty insightful. Then, I heard from a friend that the co-op (we joined this year) had someone putting together the Stanford Achievement Test for homeschool families, so we did that as well. I plan on doing it again this year. A week or two before testing, I try to start reviewing subjects (used the SAT’s practice booklet last year). Testing is the first week of June for two days, so that’s kind of our end of the school year’s last hurrah.

@Forchristandkids Its funny that you mentioned Apologia and God’s Design for Science because we are using both next year! We are going to do the Apologia Astronomy book and lab kit and I ordered just one book of God’s Design for Science, the book, Our Weather and Water. :smile:

I was hoping we were neighbors! I live in northern New York. Here, if testing scores drop to a certain point your home school gets put on probation, and then you can become subject to mandatory home visits and other unpleasant things. :grimacing: Maybe its just me, but testing makes me so nervous! I always want to see what they are doing in school and I’m always tempted to follow what they are teaching in school, but I remind myself that we are teaching a good and solid curriculum of our own at home and I think God will bless us for following where he is leading us! But, my kids really do fine on testing so I’m sticking to doing what we do! :grinning:

@erica my state does not require testing of any kind, but I have done assessment tests on my children to see where they needed to start and get up to speed in the grades that they are suppose to be in. As for other tests, I am doing them on review of what has been done to make sure that they understand the material. As they get into high school, which my oldest daughter is in now, I would like them to take the ACT, SAT for college.

Hi @Sweetmom! My state doesn’t require testing either but I would like to do review testing to make sure they are grasping each concept. What do you suggest I use? Or what do you use as a test?

Does anyone know, if you purchase a standardized test to administer as a way of checking your child’s progress, do you have to submit the results? Or can you just use it for your own personal use/tracking system?

Hello @Valfam6 I used three assessment tests to place my children in the grade that they would start in and then move up to where they need to be.I used Math, Spelling, and Grammar/English.
https://homeschool.calverteducation.com/images/placement/placement4.pdf


These are the three placement/assessment tests that I used. I hope this helps some.

Can anyone explain to me why you need a BA to administer some of these tests? I was just wondering the reasoning behind this…

You do not have to submit the results unless your child is in a grade where tests are required that year. I test my kids annually, and just submit results for grades 3,5,7,9,11. I still test on even years, but do not submit results.

1 Like

We tested a few times in elementary/junior high. We used the Hewitt PASS test, which I liked for a few reasons:

1, I could administer it at home (no “proof” required, btw)
2, the tests are untimed (it can be a gentle intro to standardized testing for both of these reasons)
3, it only tests reading, math, and language arts, so I didn’t have to worry about history or science scores. (However, some tests on history/science are more like comprehension tests, seeing if the child understands how to make comparisons or use information rather than strictly knowledge-based testing–so you may find this isn’t a trouble-spot with regard to scope and sequence anyway. If you are going to test these areas, find out how the test you will use approaches these subjects.)
4, they have you give your kids a short pre-test to place them in each subject, so if you have a child who is working above or below grade level, you’ll get a more accurate picture of what they know.

We did this test 3 years, then did a regular test with other homeschoolers, and I noticed that scores could fluctuate quite a bit. So one thing I encourage moms to remember–don’t get hung up on what scores your kids get. These scores are only ONE evaluation tool–by no means the only one or even the best one. If your child does badly, don’t get down on yourself. Use it as an opportunity to think through whether you want to change anything. One year it reminded me that we hadn’t ever taught how to write a business letter, for example. Or that we needed to work more on capitalization and punctuation.

Standardized tests can never show all that your kids DO know, or what all of their strengths and weaknesses are–they can only show areas of weakness or strength that specifically pertain to things asked on the test. Try not to assign more value to them than they deserve–they can easily be a source of pride or a source of discouragement.

I like to think about academics in the same vein as physical training, mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:8. We should strive for excellence, but keep academics in perspective, just as we would keep physical training in perspective.

“…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

2 Likes

@Jenny What state are you in? Can you yourself give the test in your home? Or does your child have to be tested through the school,district by a credentialed teacher? I’m in NY. We have to test at specific grade levels, but I think I can give the tests to him in our home…

Ooooh, I opened the AALP Blog this morning, and Marie had just blogged on this–she has some great posters for kids if they are down about test scores (I didn’t usually share scores with my kids, so the poster would have been to encourage ME if they got a low score!)

2 Likes

@Merry Thank you for that link. I just read the blog this morning. I needed to be reminded of that. I printed and laminated a poster for our classroom!

Those are so cool, thanks for sharing them! :smile:

1 Like

In our state we do not have to test or do portfolios, just submit sequential progressive curriculum within 21 days of submitting a letter of intent to homeschool. Most families I know submit the letter of intent and curriculum at the same time. Our district issues an invitation in the homeschooling form packet to join them for their PAWS testing in March of each year, but nothing more than that. Our state’s PAWS test is long and of course, Common Core based.
What I would love to find are simple tests like those that came in the “Weekly Readier Magazine” every six weeks when I was a child.
My plan is to formally teach test taking strategies to my sons starting when they are in 7th and 8th Grades then, have them take PSAT, SAT and ACT in high school.
I have several years to get that material together as at the moment, I have a second and first grader.