My daughter is in kindergarten now and will be taking her first standardized test soon. Personally, I always loved achievement test week at my school. It was an interesting change of pace to the normal school day. We had some fun activities built into that week to keep our spirits and energy high.
For children in a traditional school setting like mine, the school chooses the test. In a homeschool, like every other decision this falls on the parents, unless you’re a member of an umbrella school or group that chooses a test. The decision of whether or not to take standardized tests may come from your state, but you still have some options about which test. Your choice depends on your goals and needs, so read on to discover these nuances.
Do homeschoolers take standardized tests?
Whether your state requires homeschoolers to take standardized tests or not, the tests can be a valuable tool in your assessment toolbox. Regular test-taking can benefit your child by helping him or her become familiar with the process, giving you more consistent results. You will then be able to use those results to determine how to set appropriate goals and measure success for your homeschool in the coming year.
If you are just starting with homeschooling, you can use standardized test scores to help you determine the appropriate grade level as an alternative to using an actual placement test. Some homeschoolers will vary the grade level in different subjects to cater to the student’s specific skill set in each area.
Which states require standardized testing for homeschoolers?
About half of the states have requirements for standardized testing for homeschoolers. Here are these states divided by region:
- Northeast: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont
- Midwest: Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota
- South: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
- West: Colorado, Oregon, Washington
- Pacific: Hawaii
The specific requirements differ for each state. Some are annual whereas others require testing in specific grades. Some have a short list of tests that they allow while others will accept a variety of options. And some states only require testing for specific homeschooling circumstances. You should be familiar with the applicable laws in your state before you start homeschooling.
What grade does standardized testing start?
Many state laws that require assessments in specific grades start at grade 3. Standardized tests are available from K5, so you have a few years of possible practice testing before having to report scores in many states.
What are your homeschool standardized testing options?
In many states you have the option of not taking standardized tests, but if you need to or want to, here are some to consider:
Option 1: Iowa Assessments
Iowa Assessments are nationally recognized and meet most state requirements for testing. The Iowa Assessments are among the newest achievement tests available for homeschoolers. They allow for a wider range of grade levels for simultaneous testing. Paper and online versions of the test are available with the same content. In the online test, students are only allowed access to an on-screen calculator, no personal calculators. Tests are available for K5–grade 12 students year-round. Tests K5–grade 3 evaluate listening skills. Administrators of the test must have a bachelor’s degree, and you can apply online with BJU Press Testing and Evaluation.
Iowa Assessments are also offered with a learning abilities test called CogAT, available for grades 1–12. Testing specialists recommend taking this test with the Iowa Assessments every two to three years. This test is less about evaluating right answers and more about assessing a student’s reasoning skills. The results of this test can predict which skills a student excels at.
Option 2: Stanford Achievement Tests
Stanford Achievement Tests are nationally recognized and meet most state requirements for testing and are available for K5–grade 12 year-round. Your child can take a paper and pencil format of the test, but it is also available as an online test. The content is the same regardless of format. Your child will need access to a personal computer for the online test as tablets and smart phones are not an option. The Stanford Achievement Test is self-paced (untimed) and usually takes several hours over the course of two days. Students may use a basic calculator for the mathematics portion, and some online tests include an on-screen calculator. Listening skills are evaluated for students in K5–grade 8. Administrators of the test must have a bachelor’s degree, and you can apply online with BJU Press Testing and Evaluation.
Option 3: California Achievement Test/TerraNova
The California Achievement Test (CAT), rebranded as TerraNova, is a popular test among homeschoolers because there are no specific requirements for the test administrator. Parents who may not qualify to give the other tests or who don’t wish to complete an application process can give this one. The CAT is a timed test but is shorter than both the Iowa and Stanford tests. This test is available for grades 3–12 and is accepted by most states with testing requirements. The CAT tests basic academic skills in the areas of language arts/reading and math.
There are numerous other options available to homeschoolers for standardized testing, but it is wise to verify that your state will accept the results of these tests before spending the time and money to administer them. Many tests are not available directly to the public, so you need to find a testing service—such as Pearson—that can provide or administer them for you.
- Basic Achievement Skills Inventory (BASI) assesses verbal and math skills for children or adults seeking to demonstrate job-readiness. The BASI is available starting in grade 3.
- Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Growth tests math and reading skills for K5–grade 12, language usage for grades 2–12, and science for grades 3–12. The computerized test is adaptive, giving harder questions as a student answers correctly. It is designed to measure growth from year to year.
- Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills is not a standardized (norm-referenced) test, but it can be useful for assessing basic readiness skills for pre-K–grade 9.
- Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA) offers both brief and comprehensive forms. It is a standardized test for pre-K–grade 12, assessing reading, math, and written and oral language skills. KTEA offers a dyslexia screening test as well.
- Wechsler Individual Achievement Test for pre-K–grade 12 measures listening, speaking, reading, writing, and mathematics skills. The basic test offers many scores related to reading proficiency. If you have concerns regarding dyslexia, they do offer a separate dyslexia screening test.
- Wide Range Achievement Test provides assessment of reading—both decoding and comprehension—spelling, and math computation.
- Woodcock-Johnson Test is a cognitive abilities test that helps identify students with special needs or giftedness. It is a one-on-one testing format with oral components.
What is the best standardized test for homeschoolers?
The Iowa Assessments and Stanford Achievement tests are most likely to meet your state requirements because they are nationally recognized and normalized tests. Both of these are available from BJU Press’s Testing and Evaluation team where you will also find comprehensive FAQ pages about them. Here’s a helpful infographic about which test to choose to suit your purposes.
How do homeschoolers take standardized tests?
In some cases, you have the option of proctoring standardized tests at home. However, it might be a good idea to consider hiring a proctor or taking your child to a testing center so the test feels like a special event. This will help prepare your child for the time when a proctor is required, as in college entrance exams, the SATs, or the ACTs. BJU Press has a testing and evaluation service to help you find the right test and answer any questions you may have about the process.
How to Help Your Child Prepare for Standardized Tests
Improve Reading Comprehension
Preparing for standardized tests should start with reading comprehension strategies. Not only do standardized tests specifically assess comprehension, but this skill will improve a student’s test taking ability in all subject areas.
Take practice tests.
As students get older and tests get harder, it may be appropriate to employ some practice tests. College entrance exams have readily available practice tests. Practice tests are also available for the Iowa Assessments and Stanford Achievement Tests.
Visit ahead of time.
Visiting a testing center ahead of time can also help alleviate some uncertainty your child may have.
Use test-taking tips.
General test-taking tips also apply to standardized tests.
- Stick to a routine during the test preparation phase.
- Get plenty of sleep the night before.
- Eat a good breakfast on test day.
- Bring plenty of snacks with you to the testing site.
- Remind your students that although guessing is not penalized on most standardized tests, it is only a good idea if they can narrow down the answers to the two most likely before guessing. Random guessing does not yield productive test results.
Using Results of Standardized Tests
The results of standardized tests are just one tool in your toolbox as a home educator. Here are several ways to use the results without putting an undue emphasis on them:
- Find areas that may need more emphasis in the coming year.
- Track your child’s progress in lower scoring areas from year to year.
- Ensure that your child is on track with other children the same age.
- Remember what the test does not measure. Certain aspects of a homeschool education are not testable. Your child’s character and godliness are not reflected on the test.
- Celebrate growth!
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