It’s Homeschool Testing Season!
by Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant
It’s that time of year again when many parents are curious how their kids are “tracking” academically. As a homeschooling parent, you observe your child on a daily basis and can probably determine pretty accurately in which areas he is strong and in which areas he could use some additional help. His verbal interaction with you, his hands-on activities, his written work, periodic subject-matter tests (if you use them), and his achievement of goals you have set for him are all informal indicators of his progress.
Many parents find it reassuring to have some sort of guidelines for academic milestones, with checklists for evaluating progress in language arts, math, science, and social studies (K–8) as well as character development. (See the sidebar of “What Should I Be Teaching?” for a few scope-and-sequence guidelines.)
However, your state’s law may require that you periodically demonstrate your child’s academic progress. Some states require standardized testing, while others may allow for a teacher letter or some other form of evaluation—and of course, you might have no legal requirement but want to conduct a more formal assessment for your own purposes.
Whatever your reason for wanting to assess your child’s progress, there are some things you’ll want to think about beforehand.
Consider Your Options
The three most commonly used methods of assessment are standardized testing, evaluations, and portfolio submission.
The method you choose for your child will depend upon your state’s legal requirements, if applicable; your family’s philosophical preference, and your child’s unique learning style. Consider the format that will best reflect your child’s true progress: While a visual learner may test well on paper, a hands-on or auditory learner may be better assessed by an online test, an evaluation, or a test utilizing personal interaction, rather than a paper-and-pencil test. In that case, you might choose to administer a standardized test first, leaving time for a follow-up if the results don’t match what you’ve witnessed in her day-to-day progress, or you may opt for an untimed test to reduce testing anxiety.
Here are a few resources to help you make the best testing and evaluation choices for your child:
- Testing, Evaluations and Portfolios—This main testing section in our Toddlers to Tweens section includes information on standardized testing and has a sidebar of additional links. You’ll also find a list of items to consider including in a portfolio, as well as questions to ask an evaluator, if you choose to go the evaluation route.
- List of Commonly Used Tests—This includes a variety of standardized achievement tests, basic details about each, and some sources for the tests—including Homeschool Testing Services and Seton Home Testing Service (two of our member PerX providers), as well as many others.
- Which Test is Best?
- Testing Basics—February 2017 Toddlers to Tweens newsletter
- Where Do You Start? Placement Tests
- Additional testing and assessment article links on our Toddlers to Tweens Resources page
While the links above are of general interest for all ages, if you have a high school student, here are a few special, additional considerations for you:
- Various testing options for teens
- Taming the Testing Jungle—Article from The Home School Court Report, 3rd Quarter 2017
- The PSAT Tests: A Litany of Choices for College-Bound Students
- College Entrance Tests: Making Sense of the ACT, SAT, and CLT
Keep the Results in Perspective
Think of a test or evaluation simply as a tool to assess your child’s progress, to let you know the areas in which she is doing well and the areas which may require some extra work. Maybe you overestimated her understanding of a particular subject area, or didn’t realize how quickly she was advancing in another.
As you review the results, consider the goals you set earlier in the year. How did you do? Are you on target, or do you need to adjust the course a bit for the coming year? Try taking this self-survey to help you determine how this year went, and whether you should make any adjustments for next year.
In the end, remember that a test or evaluation is just one “snapshot” of academic progress and of your child as a person. She is more than the sum of her test results!
Portions of this newsletter have been adapted from past newsletters found in the archives at www.hslda.org/toddlerstotweens