To Assess or not to Assess, That is the Question?
We have been doing assessments since 3rd grade. I was very nervous the first year. I felt like it was more of an assessment of me as a homeschool mom and my abilities to homeschool than my son’s knowledge.
This year will be our fourth year and our first time doing them at home. (Should be interesting.)We have always used the paper pencil test and not a computer based test.
We usually test with our Homeschool Assistance Program. This year the program is using computer based testing instead of pencil and paper. So to ensure JV gets his best results I decided we would try them at home.
I ordered the assessment from BJU Homeschool and signed up to be a proctor. For the assessment I ordered, a B.A or B.S. is required to be a proctor.
Assessment scoring is a bit strange or can seem that way for the homeschool family. It speaks to the use of the data more than how it assesses the homeshool student. The tests are based on the curricula used in the public school system and in recent history they were used to test the curricula. Base standards were adopted and the assessments were used to make sure the curricula was meeting those standards. At some point this changed and it seems to be more about funding and allocating resources where needed.
FOUR REASONS SCHOOL ASSESSMENTS ARE FOR THE BIRDS
The information you are given can be useful and can be used to adjust your curricula. But I would not take it all too seriously. First of all, I doubt you are using the public school curricula.
All children learn at different speeds and have different stages of brain development. Homeschool families introduce topics and concepts at all different ages, not necessarily where the state standards measure.
The information you get is a comparison to the State and National averages of all children taking the assessments. Not a direct score of your child’s progress.
You do not receive specific details of what was incorrect. You don’t receive specifics to test YOUR curricula. You don’t get a copy of the material tested.
The test covers basic standards of knowledge. The tests do not show the enrichment of the education you are providing.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO HAVE YOUR CHILD TAKE THEM
I have an eclectic approach to homeschooling. I use a couple different theories when putting my school year together, I use a little “The Well Trained Mind“ and a little ” Charlotte Mason” and a little John Gatto inspired “unschooling“. Basically, my curricula is all over the place.
( I wouldn’t have it any other way).
So I use the test results to see if we have any gaps in our curricula. One year we seemed to be a little behind in spelling. So I bulked up our spelling.
(What I mean by behind is: Below the average or fifty percentile and Behind what the minimum standard given by some governmental body as to where they believe a student of my son’s grade should test. 🙂 IT IS ALL FOR THE BIRDS!)
In past years if it appeared there was a gap in what I was teaching, I adjusted accordingly. I know that my son knows far more than what is being tested. I know that the tests are not a great indicator of what he has learned or his abilities. But I did find out some interesting info as well.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY SON’S STANDARDIZED TEST RESULTS.
When we first started some practice tests I found that my son had really little experience with answering questions in writing and formulating how to answer question in writing…WHAT? How can this be?
With a little coaching and little help he picked it up. I had no idea that this was a weird little gap. He writes all the time. He answers questions all the time. His reading comprehension is advanced. How does he not know how to write out an answer to a question? Up until the practice assessments we had not encountered writing out answers.
I also learned that my son is advanced in Reading and Language Arts (What I mean by advanced is: He scores in the 99% of other’s who have taken the tests. Again, based on the minimum standard given by some governmental body. )
IS IT ALL FOR THE BIRDS?
We also learned that our son has a little test anxiety.
We learned that our son is learning and retaining what he is being taught. YAY!
We learned that we are doing a great job homeschooling.
And here and there over the past few years a few little gaps of knowledge have surfaced and we have quickly made adjustments.
HOW I USE THE TEST RESULTS
I use the assessments as a baseline for where we are each year. I don’t weigh them to heavily but I always like to see that my son is improving each year.
I look for areas to approve upon and areas to expand.
I don’t worry about the scores, I don’t judge myself or my son. I don’t allow results to dictate my decisions to homeschool.
If you do duel enroll your child and access the school district’s programs or facilities, test scores help them place in gifted programs or higher class levels.
Standardized testing is good practice and good experience for important upcoming test. As our children enter the job market and colleges they will be asked to participate in standardized testing. Colleges offer better enrollment opportunities and financial scholarships with high ACT and SAT scores.
Starting early for testing is also a great way to help testing become second nature to your child, more fluid for your child. Test taking skills are an asset and can be applied in college and graduate school.
Whether you decide to do assessments is up to you and what you feel comfortable with.
There are testing centers that can proctor the tests. There are proctors that you can hire to give assessments in your home. Depending upon what option you homeschool, the school district may offer assessments. If you are part of a Homeschool Assistance Program it might offer assessments. Depending upon qualifications you may be able to give your assessments at home.
Which ever you decide it will be the right decision. It is your decision to make and you can always make a different decision next year.
Happily Homeschooling ~ Bridget Anne