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Homeschool & Standardized Testing

It’s about that time friends, standardized testing time! Yipee!

Have you been worried about standardized testing for your children? Well don’t sweat it! Testing isn’t as hard as you think, YOU CAN DO IT! Here is the information you will need to get started.

About this time every year I order our standardized testing for the year. I typically like to administer it as late in the year as possible so we can get through the majority of our curriculum before taking them.

Last year we took them the very last week of school and then started summer break right after that. It worked well for us and so we will do that again this year.

Step 1: Choose Your Tests

If you hold a Bachelor’s Degree you can  order the Iowa Standard Tests from BJU Press Testing.  You can also order Stanford Tests from them as well. You can find more information on Test options at HSLDA Website. If you are going to do Iowa’s you need to first get approved as a test administrator. There is a Test Administrator Application link on the left sidebar of their site. For Iowa’s you’ll need to send in a copy of your Bachelor’s diploma. I faxed it over and received approval within about 10 days. Tests must be completed and returned within a certain time frame, they will give you specifics when you order.

If you don’t hold a BA you can still administer tests at home by using the CAT tests. You can purchase them from Christian Liberty Press. They are a bit shorter so they don’t take as long, and they are also a less expensive option as well! We have been doing the CAT tests for the last few years and they are a bit shorter than the others which is nice, but you still get all of the information you need from them. Since they have worked well for us in the past, we will be using the CAT tests this year.

If you don’t wish to test your kids at home, you will need to find a certified testing administrator in your area. You can contact BJU Press for help finding registered test administrators. Also make sure to check with local homeschool organizations they often offer group testing and discounts, in addition many umbrella schools offer testing services even if you do are not registered with them.

Tip #1 from the trenches:

If you know you are going to test this year, be proactive and set a date to order tests so they arrive close to when you finish school for the year. I have an annual reminder on my phone to order them on April 15th each year. We typically end school at the end of may so that gives us plenty of time to get the tests in, then we can use them when we are ready.

Students tend to get into summer brain mode if you wait until after your school year is over, so I do NOT recommend waiting more than a week after your scheduled school year ends. You want to test while information is still fresh in their minds, and before they have checked out for summer!

STEP 2. ADMINISTER TESTS

Read the rules for administering the test. Depending on the grade you are testing you may be required to test certain grades separately. Some tests are timed, some are not, so you will want to go over the rules before you begin so you know what is expected. I also decide how many tests will will do at this time, and how many days we will test as well.

As far as where to test, you will want to choose a well-lit spot in a quiet area with little distraction. Your test will come with a suggested schedule, and for the most part we follow that. If you follow the test schedule in your book you will see it can take up to a week to complete the tests if you do 2-3 per day. I found my kids did better when we did a couple per day as opposed to doing them all in one day, but you could certainly choose to do that.

We have “Testing Week” at our house and at the end of the week we do something special to celebrate. That might mean a trip to the ice cream shop, a family movie night, a fun activity like roller skating, a special dinner, etc.

Tip #2 from the trenches:

Have plenty of sharpened pencils and scratch paper available before starting. I also like to set out a variety of fun snacks each day, and I try to change them up. And as I mentioned above, we try to add in something fun at the end of our test week, or during the week to make it more fun.

PAPER vs. ONLINE

There are two types of tests you can choose, either paper (a.k.a. fill in the bubble) or online. We have tried both styles and found pros and cons for each.

PAPER:

PROS: Paper tests are nice because students can go back and double check answers. Sometimes it is also nice just to have a text in front of you to refer to as well. Overall my kids have done better with the paper tests because they like to go back and look at the information as needed. Personally, I feel that the paper tests are a little more flexible for students who struggle with test taking, and may cause less anxiety than the online test.

CONS: You do have to be very careful with the testing booklets, if you get any marks on them that don’t come off you will be charged for the testing booklet and they are quite expensive. You will also want to flip through the answer booklet and make sure your student has filled in their dots correctly, no half dots, no stray marks, etc. It also takes longer to get your test results back as they have to be mailed in. You will want to mail them back certified so you can track them. I also suggest making copies of your testing answer booklets so that in the event your tests do not arrive at the testing facility your student does not have to retake the test.

ONLINE:

PROS: Online tests are very easy to administer. You simply purchase them online, then within about 24 hours you will receive your log in information and you can get started. There are no errors like you may have with incomplete filled in dots as in the paper tests. Since it is all digital you will get your test results almost immediately after taking the test.

CONS: The tests are all timed with no room for grace if something happens, like tech issues, or your child needs a potty break, etc. There is a timer in the top corner so your student can see it ticking down as they go. This can cause quite a bit of anxiety in your students as they race to beat the clock. If you have a student who is already nervous to take tests, I recommend using the paper version. Lastly, your child can’t go back to look at or correct answers once they are chosen. This can be either good or bad, but my kids prefer to be able to go back and review their answers before turning in their test.

STEP 3. SEND IN YOUR COMPLETED TESTS

Once you are done testing, you will want to follow all return directions for whatever tests you purchased. Flip through your test booklets and make sure there are no stray marks or incomplete dots filled in so as not to skew your results. Make sure all items to be included are sent back or your results will not be processed.

The Iowa test will require you use a service such as FedEx or UPS so the package is traceable, so just make sure that you follow the rules listed on your test.

STEP 4. FILE YOUR RESULTS

If it is a required testing year for you, you’ll want to submit your test scores to the appropriate location. You will need to find out what is required in your state. You should be able to contact your local school district to see what testing requirements for homeschoolers are. And as always you can check HSLDA website for that information as well.

In our state, I am required to submit my testing results on odd years starting with grade 3 to my local school district, or I can also submit them to an umbrella school.  In some cases if you are enrolled in a public school funded options program you are required to keep records of testing yourself. I create a binder each year that has all of our testing information, curriculum information, attendance, and hours for all of my kids. You can find more information on our record keeping binder here.

Either way, you will need to find the appropriate method of submitting results for your state and follow those rules. You can get more information on your state’s requirements by contacting the Department of Education for your district.

Final Thoughts

We have completed several years of testing at this point and I want to encourage you that it is not as difficult as you may think it is. The tests are fairly easy to order, administer, and submit. Our kids did very well on them and it was a nice re-assurance to me that we are doing well in our decision to homeschool. I always have a few areas to improve on, and that is a good thing to find out as well.

For more information on standardized testing and assessments, visit www.hslda.org

Want to see more of my Tip Tuesday Videos? Make sure to click the image below to check out all of my homeschooling tips!

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For more information on homeschooling check out my Homeschooling 101: A guide to getting started!

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