Dear FREd: We will be starting
to homeschool soon. I would like to do some sort of yearly
achievement testing (although, frankly, we're homeschooling
because my oldest didn't do well enough on his achievement
testing at school and it does not show his true ability.
But still, maybe it would be nice to know he wasn't scoring
lower than before or help me identify strengths/weaknesses.
Do any of you do this?
What test do you use and how do you get
it? I asked our public school if we could sit with their
students for testing and the answer was no. I checked with
a private school and they were willing to let us have any
extra copies of their tests, but I would have to figure
out a way to score it. A Learning Center offers testing
to determine grade level in some subjects, but it's $250
per student. That just sounds very expensive! Any ideas
LEADER: There's a handful of places
on the Internet, where you can get standardized tests. They
are listed on the IndianaHomeschoolers YahooGroup, in the
links folder .
Many tests are self administered and
cost around $40 or $50. There's also a link to the Texas
NCLB test which is free.
The tests you pay for will rank your
child against the national norm and tell you how well your
child does compared to an average kid at that point in school
(even down to the month). The Texas test will tell you whether
they would pass the NCLB test.
Personally, I think it's better to pay
for the more complete results, but it can add up for large
families. Ultimately, private schools, including parents
who educate at home, are not required (not allowed actually)
to take the Indiana NCLB state test -- ISTEP+ .
How you want to evaluate your children is up to you and
for your own information. The state does not track test
results and student information for non-accredited, non-public
WEST: Testing is okay, but not
really necessary. You will know whether your children are
getting the concepts taught in schools or whether they need
more work on them.
By being with them all day, you will
know exactly what they have and haven't learned. If you
really want testing, Bob Jones offers the Iowa Basic for
about $50. As long as you have a 4 year college degree you
can sign up with them to officially administer the test.
There might also be a local homeschooling parent or support
group who administers the test. You could check IHEN's Support
Directory for that information .
However, based on what you said about
your oldest, I wouldn't push testing. Many really bright
children do not test well. The main thing the tests measure
is how well a child tests, not how much they've actually
PECK: You can download the Spring
2006 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests
in PDF format  if you are looking
to just identify and evaluate weak areas in your child's
education. Our family uses the tests to show nosey and skeptical
relatives that our children really are learning something.
As involved parents, we already know our children's strengths
and weaknesses. Nevertheless, some people would rather see
a score on a government test than take the word of the children's
BENNETT: What is a test? It's
an evaluation. As a homeschooler, you're evaluating your
own child and using a test as a tool to determine whether
he or she knows the information he or she is being tested
on. Well and good for the bean counters but we aren't tested
in this way in real life. In real life, we're tested by
our words and our actions. The best way to test people (student
or adult) is to talk to and interact with them. You can
usually tell in five minutes whether the teen you are talking
with could pass a standardized test or not. "Man on the
street" interviews where people ask simple questions and
receive moronic answers are common entertainment on talk
radio programs. Maybe to save embarrassment, we should ask
participants what their ISTEP scores are, before interviewing
them. But with a 60% failure rate... I'm afraid the "Man
on the street" interviews would have to be canceled.
So how do you find out what your child
knows? Talk with them. "Read a good book lately? Tell me
Want to see if your child can write?
"Maybe you should write your grandma a thank you letter
for your birthday present."
Worried about math? "Hey... why don't
you sit here and help me work out a family budget for this
Kids always know more than they could
ever ever be tested for. The bits and pieces of knowledge
that show up on tests, are only useful for taking tests.
That's why we memorize, spit out, then forget most of everything
we learned in high school.
Like in history, we are taught in school
the WHEN of an event... but never have time to really look
into the WHY. Why did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor? Why
was Hitler allowed to get as far as he did before he met
There is a long list of ways to assess
the knowledge and education of a person. Filling in little
cards with a No. 2 pencil is at the bottom of that list.
PECK: Actually, I've found that
our annual exercise of achievement testing to be a total
waste of time, as far as evaluating the children is concerned.
The only benefit is that worried relatives have their fears
that the kids aren't learning anything relieved and so there
is more peace in the extended family than otherwise there
would be. So far, administering the Texas test and telling
them that, yes, the children take a standardized test every
year and they passed it, has done wonders to ease their
concerns. It's funny that even after they see and interact
with our children and can see that homeschooling hasn't
turned them into moronic monsters, they are still "concerned"
until we show them the Texas assessment test scores. Sadly,
too many people believe, "Approved by the Government" somehow
makes everything okay.