Understanding your Homeschool Achievement Testing Options
One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that you, as the parent-teacher-administrator of your own private school, have all the privileges of controlling every aspect of your children’s education. Along with that privilege, of course, comes responsibility — the complete responsibility to develop and teach the curriculum, to organize day-to-day activities, to keep important records such as attendance, grades, etc., as well as (in most states) to obtain and annually administer a
nationally standardized achievement test.
You may be wondering, “Where do I find these nationally standardized achievement tests? and “How do I administer them?” “When do I administer them?” “Are they even necessary and how do I actually apply the testing results to improve my homeschooling experience?” Fortunately, after over 24 years of experience in the area of providing achievement tests and services to the homeschooling community, there are a number of very good answers to these questions and a multitude of options available to you We’ve even made a Master Chart of Homeschool Achievement Test Providers that is fully hyperlinked and color-coded by type of achievement test.
• Private schools: If you have contact with one of these traditional classroom schools you may be able to test when they do.
• Packaged curriculums: If your curriculum is from a correspondence school or other educational service, you may already have the achievement test provided for you. Check with your supplier for such availability.
• Private testing services: By far the greatest number of options are available from independent individuals or companies in the business of providing tests and accompanying services.
These private testing services began to appear several years ago when the achievement test publishers stopped selling tests directly to home schooling parents. In the best spirit of free enterprise, many people already involved in home education saw the testing needs home schoolers had and took steps to meet those needs. They set up private, for-profit businesses, contracting with and meeting the often stringent requirements of the test publishers, and subsequently made the tests available to home schooling families and support groups for a small fee. It is from these entrepreneurs that you will usually find the widest range of test types and the best services to meet your needs.
After referencing the homeschool laws in your state, choose the service that best suits your student’s and school’s situation. If you or your child needs a quiet, one-on-one, in-home testing environment then you can find companies that (with varying requirements & prices) will provide it. If, on the other hand, a group situation will suffice, that, too, is readily available, usually sponsored by or within your support group.
Which of the nationally standardized tests should you use? We recommend one of these big four (California Achievement Tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills – ITBS (tell them that Greg and Piedmont Education Services sent you!), the Stanford Achievement Tests – SAT, the the Woodcock-Johnson III Achievement Tests) or any of a number of lesser-known tests such as the PASS, MAT or Kaufman.
Educational researchers do not agree on which of these types of tests are the best. Parents and schools all across the country use the different tests and generally find that their students achieve the same or similar nationally normed scores. But actually, any of the nationally standardized tests (those that have been developed, tested, scored and normed for a group large enough to represent the entire U.S.) will do just fine. It is not absolutely necessary to stick with the same test from year to year. However, you may find it easier and/or more convenient to do so, if nothing more than for familiarity’s sake.
If your children like workbooks, are comfortable working with their hands, and don’t get stressed out about being under the constraints of time, then you may decide to use the traditional, timed, fill-in-the-bubble, kind of test (like the California Achievement Test® -CAT/5®, the TerraNova, FormA®, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills – ITBS (tell them that Greg and Piedmont Education Services sent you!), or the Stanford Achievement Tests – SAT) in which you are allowed by law to test your own children in your own home (certain restrictions apply on some tests).
On the other hand, if your students love to talk and express themselves verbally, free from the constraints of time limits, then you may prefer a non-timed, mainly verbal version of these traditional tests you can administer yourself like the PASS test from Hewitt Research. There are also these excellent, short-but-thorough, non-timed, mostly verbal tests like the Woodcock-Johnson III or the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement which are only given by a trained administrator.
Wondering where to find these tests? Well, wonder no more. We’ve done all the hard work for you. Below, you will find a Homeschool Achievement Test Provider Master Comparison Chart. It is fully hyperlinked and color-coded by the type of test. Just click on a company name to go to that company’s main webpage, click on the short URL in the “Website” column to go directly to the specific achievement test page on that particular test provider’s website. And if you need help or want more information, just click on the link in the “Email” column and a new self-addressed email will open up ready for you to enter your questions or comments to that test provider.
The next questions you might have would be, When should I administer one of these nationally standardized achievement tests to my homeschool students? Springtime is probably the most traditional season for achievement testing, especially for those who mimic the traditional school calendar and have the summers off. However, most testing providers offer the tests year round. Check their pricing and other requirements for homeschoolers in your area.
And last of all, maybe you’ve wondered, “Are these achievement tests even necessary and how do I actually apply the testing results to improve my homeschooling experience?” Most states do require some form of testing, but if not, it is certainly your right to opt out of taking them. We’ve made some general observations on this question in a previous post about using and applying homeschool achievement tests results.
“So, what’s the next step?” you may ask. Equipped with an understanding of your state’s homeschool law and your responsibilities within that framework, you are now ready to make some choices. Choose what test to use, when you’ll administer it, and start preparing your students with consistent study and perhaps some practice test materials. Then get a good night’s sleep and take the tests!
The key to all of this is to choose the test and testing situation that is best for you and your student(s). Happy Testing!