This is article Number 3 in the Series, Essentials for Successful Homeschooling
This Essentials for Successful Homeschooling series is written for the benefit of anyone who wants guidance to implement a successful homeschooling program. These articles will be numbered, and should be read in order. The content for each article is taken from the Enrollment Application and processes for students in Family Tree Private School, a school for homeschooling families. Family Tree Private School supports a Biblical foundation for life and learning, and enrollment is open to all.
This 3rd article, Testing provides an explanation of why tests are important, and which tests are best for which situations. The science behind tests and evaluations, in general is very extensive. Test information can be used for improving programs, re-writing a curriculum, or directing decisions for student learning. When testing information is used properly, as intended by the tester it will improve a program, or student experience.
Essentials for Successful Homeschooling 3 – Testing
(Video version of this article is not yet available.)
Testing is used for several reasons. Formative evaluations are small, mini-tests given throughout a learning events to let you know how the student is comprehending material as they work toward the major goals of the course. Summative Evaluations, on the other hand are tests given at the end of a course to tell you how the student comprehended the entire course. Tests can be formal, informal, based on hard facts, or based on more affective, or subjective “feelings”, like evaluating art for example. Curriculum publishers, such as at http://www.aceministries.com provide free, online diagnostic placement tests to tell you which math workbook for instance, your student should start on. The thought is to get information to start your start on a level they are comfortable with. When a student starts at a level that is not too hard, and not too easy, he or she will be challenged, but will also be able to experience some success. So, testing should always have a specific purpose for students – to help a student be successful, and challenge them appropriately when planning for future learning events.
The main take-away for you as a parent in understanding tests is that “tests” must be aimed at telling you something you want to know. So start with the question – What do I need to know about my student? Many curricula provide “Placement Tests”, for example, which are aimed at telling you where your student should start in their curriculum based on their abilities. “I Q” tests, on the other hand tell us how well a student can critically think, and problem solve. So pick your tests carefully.
Testing Options Required for Promotion, acceptable by Family Tree Private School for the purposes of promotion include the following:
Testing Option 1 (Best for 3rd – 6th graders): Any tutoring center in the Yellow Pages, or a certified teacher can do a “screening”, or “achievement” test, or a portfolio review of basic skills. A traditional basic skills achievement test yields scores, and percentile rankings showing you where your student falls in their level of ability when compared with other students of his or her own age group. A portfolio, on the other hand is not concrete. It is subjective, and is an opinion from a teacher of the progress, and abilities of the student. A portfolio may, or may not include numerical scores. At a minimum, the teacher providing a portfolio review should give basic information, such as if the student is on grade level, and if they are average, high functioning, etc. A portfolio review does not necessarily yield specific, measurable information to which you can compare student growth from year to year. It is also assumed that the certifying teacher is ethical and proactive in guiding the family to mitigate, or at least identify a student areas of weakness.
Testing Option 2 (Best for 4th – 8th grade): Sign up for testing with the local Homeschool Support Group, or a private school to take the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT), California Achievement Test (CAT), Iowa Basic Skills Test, or some other standardized test. You may also visit http://www.aceministries.com for locations to participate in the SAT. This “SAT” is not the same “SAT” you hear about when discussing highschool students preparing for college entrance. That SAT stands for the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
Testing Option 3 (Best for 9th – 12th graders): Attend an ACT, PSAT, or SAT test held at any local public school. Go to www.collegeboard.org to sign up. These public school sites just act as vendors which host the testing event to the public.
Testing Option 4 (Best for students with disabilities, or regular education students when you want very comprehensive information): Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students are almost always required to have a psycho-educational evaluation to determine eligibility into an ESE program. This comprehensive evaluation is important for providing information to determine student progress, and assists in justifying needed program changes. A psycho-educational evaluation, or a similar intensive assessment are done by a physician, therapist, or other professional and are very expensive. These tests can be done to provide levels, both academically and in the areas of life/health skills, and ability levels for functioning. This type of assessment is important for students where academic screening is not appropriate. These test results tell you which priorities you need to teach to develop self-help, life, or vocational skills for independence.
Testing Option 5: Students in Exceptional Student Education (ESE) programs, or identified with a disability can be given alternative testing, alternative assessments, accommodations, or modifications to standardized tests. Alternative testing, or accommodations may be necessary for students who have a history of a learning difficulties, or who chronically struggle to complete testing without accommodations, or modifications. A psychologist, or other licensed professional can produce a report for your child supporting the presence of a disability. Disabilities not identified by a psychologist, but are non the less disabilities can still receive accommodations if they can be justified. For example, temporary medical conditions, or disabilities that do not have common “labels”, such as burn victims can have accommodations approved at the discretion of the testing proctor. Accommodations can be requested, such as extra time, or expanded directions given during standardized tests. A student’s ESE status, or other extenuating circumstances can dictate when it is appropriate to have alternative testing, alternative assessments, accommodations, or modifications. Test proctors need to be given this information when you initially register for the test. For testing alternatives, accommodations, or modifications to be approved, a student must:
1. Have a Guidance Consultation with a professional.
2. Identify, and document testing accommodations, or modifications that will be needed.
3. Participate in the testing as directed with the accommodations identified, or complete an alternative assessment offered.
4. Make available A “Portfolio” of the student’s class work upon request to support past learning.
When a student is given accommodations to test, it is understood that the contents of the test are exactly the same as the content given to all other students. But, if a test has modifications, this is different from accommodations. Modifications refer to the test actually be changed. For example, a modification can be to reduce the number of spelling words from 20, to 10 (with all other regular testers being tested on 20 words). If a test is modified, this is more serious.
The student may be promoted, or graduated even if they did not obtain a set passing average test score (such as 41%, the minimum required for promotion/graduation for Family Tree students) if the student was granted modifications, accommodations, or alternative testing, and it was documented. The transcripts should indicate this, such as having an asterisk (*) next to the final grades to indicate alternative testing/assessment, accommodations, or modifications were used. This should be indicated regardless of if the test scores were very high. How testing information is perceived, and used by educational organizations to determine acceptance, or admittance is not the same for each organization. Private organizations can have their own rules completely, denying entrance for almost any reason. Most public, or government programs are apt to accept all students regardless of test results, though some programs within government schools have conditions that could take test scores, and other abilities into consideration to decide if the student can be admitted.
Next Article in Series: Essentials for Successful Homeschooling 4 – Orientation for First Day of School For help with transcripts for districtly enrolled homeschoolers, CLICK HERE. To enroll with Family Tree Private School, CLICK HERE.