This article is not meant to endorse or oppose standardized testing of home educated students. It is the opinion of the author that no agency, government, bureaucracy, or individual should ever mandate testing of homeschoolers. This decision should reside fully with each family.
In some states, you don’t have much of an option, your homeschooled child has to undergo some sort of standardized testing periodically. By God’s grace, in my state, we still have the freedom of choice in this matter. For the purposes of this article, “standardized testing” is meant as the IOWAS, ITBS, CTBS, CAT-E, ACT, SAT, etc.
Should you have your child tested?
This topic brings up some strong opinions among homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers. This article is meant as an avenue of exploration into the reasons you might want or not want to test. It does not seek to convince you, merely to explore.
Let us first look at why you might not want to have your child take standardized tests.
Against Standardized Testing
- Testing is completely opposite your educational philosophy. You don’t believe in testing using rigid questions in the format of standardized tests.
- You are using a system or program that does not conform with state norms or generally accepted testing standards.
- Your program of instruction is set up to teach in a different chronological order than what the test creators check for.
- You don’t want to put your child under the pressure of a formal testing environment to where ‘test anxiety’ could develop.
- Your child’s personality is such that such a test could do him or her harm in the short or long term.
- You wish to avoid yet another opportunity for a label to be applied to your child (‘learning disabled,’ ‘gifted,’ ‘challenged’).
Devil’s Advocate View
Sometimes you are faced with circumstances you had never imagined would occur. Perhaps you do not plan to ever enroll your child in a public or private school, but an emergency arises and you have no other option. Many schools want to see standardized test results as a first preference for grade placement. There are some schools who may choose to place your child in a lower grade level than you think appropriate. Others may wish to test your child themselves. Obviously, you cannot plan for every contingency and you may consider the negatives associated with standardized testing to be too large.
What could be reasons you might want to test your child?
For Standardized Testing (Non-Mandatory)
- You want an independent look at your child’s progress versus others his or her age.
- You would like your child to get practice in test-taking skills for college entrance exams.
- You plan to put your child into a public or private school at a later date and want to ensure he or she is at grade level.
- Your spouse insists on seeing an ‘independent’ viewpoint given by the standardized test results.
- You feel your child (and/or yourself) is given a sense of accomplishment for their (and/or your) hard work when they see concrete numbers.
Devil’s Advocate View
Keep in mind that standardized tests rarely produce big surprises for parents who home educate their children. Some parents assert that the test creators have their own worldview and agenda that they do not wish to expose their children to in a testing environment. And, since many public schools “teach to the test,” your own child’s test results could theoretically be lower than your child’s true ability level.
If you do decide to test, here are some options to think about.
Suggestions If You Do Test
- Don’t test your child before he or she reaches third or fourth grade level. Children’s skills vary so widely when they are younger that in some cases, results may unfairly cause ‘labeling’ or an overreaction. Should skill-gaps or knowledge holes that you didn’t know exist be highlighted at the third/fourth grade level, many find that it doesn’t take too long to re-mediate. (This assumes a smaller, unknown gap that you wish to fill.)
- Test every other year or even every third year in an effort to keep in practice taking standardized tests while still keeping the child’s skills in check.
Whatever your reasons for testing or not testing, we can be thankful that God has given us the right to be our children’s “first teachers.”