In the last 30 years, standardized tests have become the “holy grail” in measuring educational progress. Many homeschoolers fear that there is no way of knowing if their child is learning the skills needed to become a successful adult. What is a homeschool parent to think about standardized testing and what is its proper place in education?
Most of my experience with standardized tests was once-a-year assessments with the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and then later the ITEDS for high school. We were told to get good sleep that week, eat a good breakfast, and do our best. The pressure wasn’t put on teachers and minimal pressure was put on students. I don’t remember being nervous but I was comfortable taking tests and always performed at the level my parents expected. Later, I took the ACT for college and the GRE for graduate school.
Testing has changed a great deal since those simple days. Now, students are tested several times a year with increasing pressure on teachers and students to perform well. A close teacher friend voiced her frustrations when students spend zero effort on the test and how that impacts the evaluation of her as a teacher. The time and money put into those tests are costly at multiple levels. As an adult, I’ve never remembered a time I was grateful for my experience with standardized tests. In and of themselves they have no actual value to education.
But with that said I do think there is a place in home education for standardized testing.
- There is value in being comfortable with test-taking and familiar with how they work. There are standardized tests in post-academic life. Driver’s license testing and other license testing for many careers are just part of the certification process. There has to be some way to evaluate a person’s knowledge in a particular area and testing is usually how that is done. If a homeschool student has never experienced testing, test anxiety may be an issue.
- It does offer a benchmark for progress within your homeschool. Testing can offer reassurance that your child is roughly where other children their age are in different subjects.
I have children with severe learning disabilities as well as children with no learning struggles. I take the middle ground approach of testing them with one standardize test, usually in the spring. For many years we used the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills but in recent years have switched to the Stanford tests. This is what I have learned from using tests as a tool and not the standard.
I don’t put my kids under a lot of pressure. I view the tests as a tool and nothing else. My children have become comfortable with testing without it triggering stress. I always find the results fascinating yet predictable. Their lowest scoring areas don’t usually surprise me but their highest scoring areas always surprise me. We use Classical Conversations and that does not follow the typical curriculum patterns of public school. Yet my high school age students have excelled on standardized tests in the areas of science and social studies. Honestly, I’m not sure why that is the case but I believe it has to do with their ability to use logic to find the answer. Classical education emphasizes logic and I think it beneficial in all areas of life.
Whatever you decide about standardized testing in your homeschool, place it in proper perspective. And take it from my experience, it isn’t worth making anyone cry.
Kathy Davis is a mom of four who began her homeschool journey in 2006 when her oldest started pre-school. In May 2021, she graduated her oldest. She is passionate about helping moms stay the homeschooling course while not losing themselves in the process. She mentors burnt-out moms and helps them not only survive but thrive! In April 2020, she launched kathyjilldavis.com and started working with Amare Global to offer practical support, solutions, and community for moms who don’t want to lose their dreams and passions during motherhood. If your child has trouble focusing on tests Kid’s Mood by Amare Global can help. You can buy it HERE. Feel free to email her HERE.
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