Nationally Standardized Achievement Tests & Evaluations
I will begin by saying that I don’t believe in standardized tests. The reasons are numerous and sundry, but suffice it to say, standardized tests are useless, even harmful. However, I will also say that, if you’re a new homeschooler, you’re probably worried you don’t know what grade level your child is at, and want to test to make sure you choose the appropriate curriculum. Perhaps you even want to test again at the end of the year, as a way to ‘grade’ your teaching, to see if said curriculum worked. In short, you only have one shot at this and you don’t want to mess your kids up. You also want to prove to the grandparents, your spouse, your friends, (and yourself) that this homeschooling thing actually works. I fully understand. I did the same during my first year, too. Which is why I’m providing these links. It takes a certain level of comfort and confidence to eschew testing.
Drawing from the latest research, Alfie Kohn concisely explains just how little test results really tell us and just how harmful a test-driven curriculum can be.
Teach Your OwnDo you remember most of what you learned in school? The answers to the tests you took? Me neither. This is the classic book by John Holt that launched the modern homeschool movement.
Students Against Testing
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”
What Do Tests Tell Us?
To understand the results, realize there are different types of scores. Very in-depth analysis.
After that first year however, I never tested again. The books and articles I list here are a big reason why (other than learning to just observe my own children). I hope you’ll read them, debate them on mailing lists, pass them around your support group, keep them forever. I still have mine. They’re nice to have around for those times I feel my brain start slipping back into Cookie-Cutter-Think.
Many states, but not all, require K-12 homeschooled children to take nationally standardized achievement tests. Check your state’s legal requirements to be sure. The intention of achievement tests is to compare a child with others in the same grade to see if they’re “keeping up” or “falling behind”, while highlighting academic strengths or weaknesses.
When you order your test, be prepared to give it immediately. The providers will not let you keep the tests around for a few weeks until you’re ready; they don’t want the parent perusing the questions and ‘teaching to the test’. If you’d prefer to have help, know that state homeschool organizations or local support groups usually offer testing services. The HomeSchool Mom has a nice, comprehensive list of nationwide support groups.
Bob Jones University Press
Offering the Stanford Achievement Test and the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills). These tests may only be adminstered by pre-approved tester. This means someone with a Bachelors or Masters degree, a certified teacher or a private school.
Bayside School Services
If you’re gonna test, this is my personal favorite. Homeschool verterans Donny and Sandy Ball provide do-it-yourself testing service that plain ol’ parents can administer. Includes free practice exercises for K-6 for the CAT/5 (California Achievement Test).
C.H.E.S.S (Colorado Heritage Education School System) provides standardized testing for Colorado home school families, using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) form A for grades 3 through 8 and the Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED) form A for grades 9 through 12. Group testing is offered annually in three locations: Greeley, Fort Collins, and Loveland. Private test sessions are available year round by appointment.
Christian Liberty Press
Provides both paper and online versions of the 1970 CAT (California Achievement Test) that homeschoolers can administer themselves. They still use the 1970 version because academic standards were higher in the 70′s than they are today.
Hewitt Homeschooling PASS Test
Developed specifically for homeschoolers, P.A.S.S. (Personalized Achievement Summary System) is an untimed, low-stress standardized achievement test for Grades 3-8. PASS is for home use only, because only 3 eastern states have officially approved it for purposes of state reporting.
Thurber’s Educational Assessments
Providing the CAT/5 (California Achievement Test, 5th Edition), in both the Complete Battery and Survey formats for both home schools and private schools across the nation.
“Since Dumbing Us Down, I’ve written four other books. But Dumbing Us Down remains my favorite because it opened my eyes to the harm I had caused in order to make a living.” –author John Taylor Gatto, former New York State Teacher of the Year
What’s A Test? Why Unschoolers Test Scores Prove Nothing About Method
A 2011 study showed that structured homeschoolers did better on tests than unschoolers. Best-selling author Linda Dobson says, well of course they did.
Evaluations (Colorado Only)
Colorado homeschool law allows parents to have their child evaluated rather vs taking a standardized test. This is great for unschoolers, non-readers, test-phobic students, families with a wide-ranging curriculum and those who just prefer a more casual, low stress way of assessing academic progress.
Cheryl Kasson, Ph.D, is a longtime homeschooler in Denver who is also a Qualified Evaluator. She’s calm and very understanding about the variety of learning styles out there. Cost is comparable to a standardized test. Call her at (303) 922-2797 to set an appointment.
C.H.E.S.S (Colorado Heritage Education School System) also offers personal evaluations available at a reduced price during their Greeley, Fort Collins, and Loveland testing sessions.
If you are a Colorado Evaluator, please email me and I’ll add your contact info to this list.
Higher Education Testing
S.A.T. and Other College Entrance Tests
PSAT, SAT, and ACT college tests, and what homeschoolers need to study and practice to achieve high scores on these college entrance exams. From A to Z’s Home’s Cool Homeschooling.
SAT or ACT: Which To Choose?
The SAT and ACT are significantly different tests. Depending on your particular strengths and weaknesses, you may perform much better on one than the other.