So . . . you’ve decided to assess your child via standardized testing (or your state law requires this). The next questions are what and where: which standardized test should you choose, and what test setting?
You may want to consider these factors when deciding on the right test for your child:
- Academic content—Some tests (like the Iowa Assessments and Stanford Achievement Tests) have strong reputations for rigor, while others (such as the California Achievement Test) are considered easier, but still well regarded. Additionally, more recent tests tend to align more closely with the Common Core. (Some parents prefer to avoid Common Core-oriented learning materials, but others find them helpful—especially if they plan to eventually send their child to public school.)
- If you want to develop a long-term view of your child’s progress, then consider choosing a test available in grades K–12 so that you can consistently use it each year. If your reasons for testing are less long-range, this factor might not matter to you. (However, if you are thinking about testing earlier than 3rd grade, you might want to check out what some education and child development experts say about the use of formal tests during the early years and learn about a variety of less formal, more developmentally appropriate ways to assess young children.)
- Timing—Some tests (or particular levels or portions of them) are timed. You might choose a timed or an untimed test depending on the type of testing experience you want your child to have.
- Values content—Some parents seek tests with content that reflects traditional values, such as some versions of the California Achievement Test.
- Suitability for special needs—If your child has special needs, some tests may not be ideal. You may wish to select a test with particular features (such as an untimed test or an online test instead of a paper one) or seek testing accommodations. HSLDA members can reach out to our Special Needs Consultants for personalized help with choosing a test.
Bear in mind is that publishers regularly release new editions of their tests. While keeping up with new versions can make choosing a test more confusing, there is a plus side: sometimes multiple editions of a test are available at one time, so parents who prefer particular versions can still use them even if newer editions are now available.
To ensure fair tests and valid scores, publishers establish rigorous standards for how their tests are to be administered. Private testing centers or providers then make the tests available to the public and score them.
Different testing centers offer different tests and even different versions of those tests. They also offer various lead times (how far in advance you must order a test), turnaround times for scoring, and expedited scoring options.
It’s ideal if you can schedule your testing and order the test early enough to allow wiggle room for things like inclement weather and sickness. That way you can be sure you’ll receive the scores back in time for your state’s deadline—if it has one. It’s also wise to build in extra time for the chance you might want to retest your child.
Each center has administration and proctoring guidelines in place to comply with the test publishers’ integrity requirements. When homeschooling parents commit to follow these rules, they help to protect testing as a valid, fair, and objective way to measure progress—not just for their own kids, but for all homeschoolers.
Speaking of administrators and proctors, let’s take a little detour . . .
- A test administrator is the person responsible for giving a test to a student. Some tests—most notably the Iowa Assessments—require that administrators have a bachelor’s degree. As long as you—the homeschool parent—fit whatever the requirements are, you can administer a test to your own child.
- Some test centers have an option that allows nonqualified parents to serve as proctors and supervise their own children taking a test, with the test center itself serving as the administrator.
Whether a parent is the administrator or the proctor, these two options boil down to the same thing: the parent does not need to find a third party to help give the test to their child.
Testing your own child isn’t always possible or even desirable—it depends on your state law as well as what you believe is best for your student. (We’ll talk more about that in a minute.)
Testing centers often provide helpful information for figuring out what test your child should take. Since deciding on a test and test setting might feel complicated—especially if you’re doing it for the first time—set aside a few hours, pull up a cozy chair, and grab a cuppa! Then spend some time browsing center websites and maybe chatting with online or phone representatives. You can find a quick list of a few popular testing centers at the end of this article to get started.
Choosing a Test Setting
You may want or need to have your child tested by someone other than yourself—or you might decide your child would benefit from being tested in a location other than your home, or with a group of other children. You have options!
- Your local or state homeschool organization may offer group testing.
- Testing centers and services such as the ones listed below can often help you find local test administrators.
- Some public school districts and local private schools offer testing services to homeschoolers. Just call them and ask!
- If your family homeschools under an umbrella school, the umbrella may offer testing services. Even if you are not part of an umbrella school, check with those in your area (if your state allows for this form of homeschooling) and find out if they offer testing to nonmembers.
- Coordinate your own testing group. This could be a great way to serve your homeschool community (and maybe make some new friends, too)! Depending on the test your group uses, you or another parent (or parents) might need to qualify as test administrators.
Now, we know this is a ton of information to digest, but there are lots of resources available to help you! And if you’re a member of HSLDA, please contact our Educational Consultants—we’d be glad to help you sort through the options.
Testing centers and services
This is just a quick-start list—you can find even more options by typing “testing for homeschool students” into your internet browser.
- Abeka offers tests and practice tests for the Iowa Assessments Form E paper booklets (K–12) and Stanford 10 Online tests (3–12).
- Bayside School Services—features the TerraNova 2nd Edition/California Achievement Test (CAT)/6 (K–12) Complete Battery Plus and Survey Plus paper booklets, as well as practice exercises.
- BJU Press Testing and Evaluation—sells Iowa Assessments Form E paper booklets (K–12), Iowa Assessments Online (1–12), and practice tests (K–12).
- Hewitt Homeschooling—features the Personalized Assessment of Student Success (P.A.S.S.) which is non-timed and which uses a pretest to determine the most appropriate level test for each student to take in three subjects: reading, math, and language.
- Homeschool Testing Services—Offers testing at over 300 group test sites using ERB’s Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP) paper booklets (1-10). For home use, HTS also carries Stanford 10 Online (3–12) tests individually. (And HSLDA members get a discount on HTS testing.)
- Seton Testing Services—sells the Iowa Assessments Form E paper booklets (K–12), Stanford 10 Online tests (3–12), TerraNova 2nd Edition/California Achievement Test (CAT)/6 (K—12) paper booklets, CAT E/Survey options (4-12), and some test prep materials.
Once you’ve picked your child’s test and testing setting, take a break and celebrate—and then hop back here–we’re not quite done yet . . .
Whether your child will be tested by you or by someone else, there’s one thing that only you can do—and that’s prepare your child to take the test. Read on in Part 5 for ideas.