Amy C. wrote:Talk to me, please... ...about standardized testing.
Here is our situation:
I have 8th, 6th, 3rd graders. I also have a 2 y/o. We have homeschooled from the beginning. We have never tested. It is not required by my state. I have thought about it in the past, I did really want to test my oldest the last couple of years before/during Jr. High, but it never seemed to work out. Now he is about to enter high school and my next ds is about to enter Jr. High. I am revisiting the idea of standardized testing for my older two.
My biggest reason is to see where we need to focus our priorities over the next few years. Yes, I know my sons' strengths and weaknesses to some degree, but do not have enough confidence in myself to know if I fully know the extent of their shortcomings in light of academic standards. Plus, with multiple children with multiple ages/grades and multiple needs, it is easy to let some things fall through the cracks. We plan for them to go to college and want to prepare them as adequately as we can. Of course, my 8th grader will be starting to take the ACT in the next couple of years. This could be a good opportunity for practice for that as well.
My homeschooling group is offering the Iowa test in May. It will cost $55 for the first child and $45 for the second. I will have to drive approximately 50-60 miles on 2 different days to get to the testing location. Then my other children and I will have to find something to do during testing. There is a designated tester. It is my understanding that it will be a group setting with different age/grades testing.
I have also looked into the PASS test that I can give here at home. $33 apiece if I order 2 or more. This test's results include not only samplings of ps students but also hs'ing students. This is an untimed test.
My questions are:
Is this an accurate way to get the info I want? I have researched and found out that standardized tests do not indicate how our children compare academically to grade-level expectations but actually indicate how our children compare academically to other kids at their grade level who took the same test on a given date. Is this an accurate assessment of where they are/should be academically?
Would you test? Would like to hear other's opinions. If I test, which route should I go? Iowa or PASS? Cost is somewhat of an issue, but we want to do what is best, and could shift things here and there to make it work.
That is all I can think of for now. If you think of anything else I need to consider/think about please let me know. Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer. Oh, and I have read the MFW archived threads and HSLDA's info on this issue. I would still like to hear from others here.
Aw, Amy, one of those worry days, eh?
We must standardize test each year in Minnesota, although no one needs to see the results but me. They do get a little pricey, and often there is a "facility fee" tacked on, especially for homeschool groups who must pay a church or other site to use over an extended period of 2-3 days. Fortunately, our legislature also allows a small stipend to pay for this requirement (or we can use it on other student materials). Here is what we use:
1. Iowa Basics taken in the spring through 8th grade, since that's what our local schools use, and our homeschool groups could administer this if one was a teacher.
2. PLAN test in the fall of 9th (pre-ACT), this can be done by homeschool groups as it is less regimented than the pre-SAT.
3. PSAT in the fall of 10th and 11th (11th is the "official" competitive year, but we weren't expecting to place in the top), this needs to be registered thru a local school, and I just emailed the guidance department of our public high school.
4. ACT in the spring/summer of 11th (usually colleges need ACT/SAT by then), and repeat if necessary. This is at an official testing site (often a local school), and you can register online.
Here are my personal thoughts on testing... I do not really think it shows where your child is academically. First, it is one day, and many factors can affect that day. Second, the tests we've used only cover a very few areas of learning -- math facts speed, math random types of problems, reading comprehension (fiction and nonfiction/"science"), recognition of English errors made by others, reading a simple graph. Third, the biggest thing I see being tested is "testing skills." Those include things like understanding what the test question is getting at, being able to work under pressure, and being able to keep track of answer keys.
The third thing is the main reason I don't mind testing. My kids need to learn testing skills, because using MFW, I don't use a testing type of curriculum. And really even if I did use a testing curriculum, standardized tests are different than testing what you have learned. Standardized tests give random problems and topics, not the ones you just studied. Sometimes they are ridiculously worded so they don't make sense to a kid who knows *more* than what's being asked, or they stump kids for unrelated reasons such as using different vocabulary in different parts of the country. They do have a specific "style" or method and once you learn it, it isn't that complex. And in the end, I guess I've felt it was good for my kids' character to go out there once a year with other kids and sweat through a random and semi-useful test LOL. (It would have never worked to do this in our home.)
If you've read the archives, I'm sure I have posts about the skills I taught before tests. (a) A few practices in learning to fill in bubbles on a different page, the first year. (b) A few weeks of learning to edit something written by a teacher or a textbook (we used a Great Editing Adventure story), the second year when I recognized a problem. (c) An hour or two talking about "testing strategies" and such thinking in a test prep book, most years. And a lot more time on that by 11th grade, because unfortunately, testing is the main way colleges have to sort their pool of applicants.
We all teach different things over the years. I never taught everything I wanted to fit in. But this is just one of those things I squeezed in because it was required in our state and I didn't want my son to lose confidence.
P.S. As for the results, they tell you two basic things:
1. How well your student compares to other students of the same age who took that same test (this includes many students who were taught-to-the-test and does not include students who were exempted due to special needs etc, and in the college testing it only includes those students who choose to take the test).
2. There is a grade level comparison that tells you where your student falls in terms of students from all grades who took THAT SAME TEST. So if my 7th grader got a "post high school" level, that does NOT mean that my son would pass a post high school test! Instead, it means that post high school people taking the 7TH GRADE TEST would score similarly on the 7TH GRADE TEST to my student.