Testing, 1, 2, 3

I’m a homeschool mom. And I like standardized testing. Any questions?

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I have a dirty little homeschooling secret: My kids take standardized tests every year.

I can hear the gasps among all the homeschoolers—some because we participate in that educational evil, the standardized test; others because we do it every year. Either way, I find myself defending our decision more than I ever thought I would.

I understand many homeschoolers, for reasons legitimate and otherwise, don’t want to be accountable to the state when it comes to educating their children. I also get that standardized tests don’t account for the differences in how many families study core subjects. Finally, I believe that being my kids’ teacher and discussing what we learn gives me an intuitive understanding of what they know (I don’t need a test to tell me).

But there are benefits to objective analysis. My oldest daughter learned to read at the expected age of kindergarten and first grade; she finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe all on her own when she was 6. But she hated math to the point of daily tears. Not wanting to stress her out, I let math slide that year and focused on her strengths. Not surprisingly (though I wouldn’t have known it without the Stanford test she took that May), by the time she finished third grade, her reading level was in the high school range, but her math level was stuck in first grade.

I didn’t need a test to tell me that. I knew she excelled at the one and struggled with the other. But having it objectively stated on the test results sheet was very productive for all of us. Having that mark of first grade level on my otherwise intelligent, entering-fourth grade daughter spurred me to action. It spurred her to action as well. We helped her set some goals for herself for the school year, among which was to raise her math score on the standardized test the following year.

Fast-forward 365 days and a whole lot of hard work: My daughter’s math scores were four grades higher than they were the year before. This was cause for much rejoicing.

Again, I didn’t need the test to tell me she had made improvement, but honestly, I didn’t know exactly how much of an improvement she’d made until I saw an objective analysis of her ability. Whereas the test from the year before surprised me by how much she didn’t know, the current year’s test surprised me by how much she had learned since. And it was encouraging.

Some would say that experience is the best teacher, but what we’ve found out is that it isn’t experience that is the best teacher; evaluated experience is. For our family, that’s what standardized testing—three days, once a year—helps provide.

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4 thoughts on “Testing, 1, 2, 3

  1. Matt Hudson says:

    Shared this over @ WorldMag, but didn’t know if you’d see it there:
    As a homeschool dad we’ve made the decision to stick with standardize testing on an annual basis, too. It can be helpful and encouraging. Far from “teaching to a test” we simply use it to make sure we aren’t overlooking something for our children that we would otherwise consider important.
    I am very curious, though, about your experience with math and your daughter. We have had what seems to be a parallel situation. But we’re still in the throws of the “tears” stage, not knowing if there is a strategy or curriculum we might try to turn the ship.
    Would you be willing to share what changed over the “365 days” of “hard work”? We’re feeling pretty anxious about how things are going to go this year.

    Like

  2. martha68 says:

    i think a positive for standardized testing is the prep for future standardized testing as in sat’s, act’s, gre’s, etc. they are a fact of life that anyone getting further education will have to adjust to. outside accountability is also something people must learn to deal with in their jobs, churches, etc. this is both good for parents and their children who could easily function in their homeschooling world thinking their child was well educated but miss a huge area of their own personal blindspot w/o this accountability…imperfect tho’ it may be. it gives balance to a potential weakness of homeschooling and is a great prep for life…the goal of homeschooling in the first place. m

    Like

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