The Purpose of Standardized Tests
The purpose of standardized tests is to assess the academic achievement of students. I don’t know any homeschooling parents who don’t care whether their kids are learning and growing in knowledge. The question is, do we need a ‘standardized’ test to assess this learning?
The Problem With Standardized Testing for Homeschooled Students
If you’ve been pondering the question of whether or not to have your homeschooled kids participate in standardized testing, there are several things that you should consider while making your decision.
- Standardized tests cannot accurately assess whether kids are really learning all they need to be learning. With the possible exception of math, which is particularly well-suited to standardized assessment, subjects covered in History and Science can vary widely from classroom to classroom or homeschool to homeschool and year by year.
- Too much importance is being placed on the results of standardized testing. Public schools use the results of yearly standardized testing to assess the health of each individual school. These high stakes assessments have loaded the burden of ‘teaching to the tests’ to the public school teacher’s load. Many homeschooling parents who have gone through the public school system have difficulty stepping back from the school-at-home mentality.
- Standardized tests are heavily researched as a form of assessment and are still highly debated by the researchers themselves. Translation: even the testing experts are unsure of whether the use of standardized tests is a reliable form of assessment.
- Jobs and life aren’t ‘standardized’. A recent study startled the world of academia by showing that high scores on the highly regarded SAT and ACT college entrance exams had little relation to college success. It was, in fact, the high school GPA that was the biggest predictor of success. Why? Because a high school GPA is a compilation of hundreds of tests on a variety of subjects. A high GPA reflects four years of discipline and hard work, or grit, which has been shown to be a better determiner of success (college or otherwise).
How to Assess Homeschool Students
Most homeschool parents are performing informal assessments on their kids every day. As we sit and engage with our kids daily, one-on-one, discussing what is being learned, correcting errors, making connections between subjects, teaching them how to learn (and how they learn) we are assessing them. We know what they know and don’t know and what they want to know.
If Your State Requires Testing
States vary widely in their recommendations for standardized testing for homeschoolers. If your state requires testing, there are things that you can do to make the process as painless as possible.
- Demonstrate a relaxed attitude about the testing. This will reassure your child and places the appropriate value on the testing.
- Teach your kids basic test taking skills like how to handle multiple choice questions and other strategies such as making sure your child has had a good night sleep, a hearty breakfast, wears comfortable clothing and uses the restroom before the test.
- Teach your kids the reality that test scores do not accurately assess their full academic ability.
- Remind your kids that standardized tests don’t measure other important things like intelligence, creativity, and compassion etc.
- If your child has a learning disability such as dyslexia, request accommodations such as extended time or to have the test read out loud to the student.
Testing is a part of life to be sure. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, electricians, realtors and many other professions require assessments in the form of testing in order to prove ability and knowledge. At some point in life, most people will need to be able to show what they know through some form of testing.
Testing skills can be taught but teaching a child how to think, how to apply knowledge and to develop critical thinking skills are the best ways to teach kids how to succeed on any kind of test.