by NCHE Guest Contributor Whitney Cranford Crowell
Out of all the months of the year, October is perhaps the one most associated with the ghoulish and the ghostly. But no witch or goblin could ever strike fear into the hearts of new homeschoolers as much as our state’s annual testing requirement.
Never fear! Testing your student once each year really shouldn’t be any scarier than the adorable little princesses and superheroes who parade through your neighborhood each October 31. Here are five reasons you should ditch the standardized testing superstition:
1. Nobody Has to See the Scores but You
Yes, that even includes your student! If doing well on a difficult test motivates and inspires your child to continue reaching higher, then by all means, share the results! But if test scores only produce anxiety or lower your child’s self-esteem, there’s no need to even mention them. Simply file the score sheet away as part of your school’s official records, and go on with life.
It’s possible that you may be asked to show proof of testing to a representative from DNPE at some
point in your homeschooling career, but most of these meetings are strictly voluntary. And DNPE isn’t
interested in evaluating your child’s test score, but only verifying that you’ve had him tested. Test scores may also be requested should you decide to enroll your child in a public or private school, but there are generally other options available for placement if you feel that they don’t accurately reflect your child’s abilities.
2. Testing Can Give You Good Information – About Your Student and About Yourself
While they’re far from perfect, standardized tests do exist for a reason, and they can give you valuable information about your student’s strengths and weaknesses. They can also show you where you, the teacher, may need to up your game and find a better way to meet your child’s needs– whether that means providing extra support or extra challenge. In order to glean the most useful feedback, it’s important that you know how to properly read the test’s score report, so be sure to take the time to study the explanatory key included with your child’s scores.
3. “Test Prep” Is Unnecessary
The emphasis on testing and test prep is one reason many families have left public school. But as
homeschoolers, we have the benefit of being able to use the tests for the good they provide us without the added stress of weeks of prep. If your child is completely unfamiliar with the mechanics of taking a test (such as filling in bubbles), you might wish to introduce those to her prior to test day. But spending a lot of time preparing for the test is unnecessary. Instead of test prep, focus on providing an enriching educational environment and experience.
4. Test Scores Aren’t the Boss of You
Annual and end-of-course testing can cause a lot of anxiety because of the influence they exert
over a class’s final grade or promotion to the next level. But in your homeschool, test scores don’t have to change anything unless you want them to. Decisions about the course of study, promotion to the next grade, and how high school credits are earned are completely up to you. You know your child best!
5. Finding and Administering a Test Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
The State of North Carolina requires homeschoolers to administer a “nationally standardized test or
other nationally standardized equivalent measurement” which “measure[s] achievement in the areas of English grammar, reading, spelling and mathematics” annually to each enrolled student. There are many options that fulfill this requirement. Most are relatively inexpensive (in the $25-$60 range), and many can even be administered at home, although some require the administrator to have a bachelor’s degree.
If you’re not comfortable administering a test at home, contact a few co-ops in your area to see if they
offer group testing. You can also utilize one of the many testing services in our state, or choose a test
that is given one-on-one by a trained administrator, such as the Woodcock-Johnson.
NCHE has a wealth of information about testing on its Testing and Testing Services page. Remember:
When it comes to testing, DO be prepared, but DON’T be scared!
Whitney Cranford Crowell knew she had reached peak homeschooling when she bought a custom nine-foot by six-foot bookcase with matching ladder and still did not have room for all the books. She lives in her childhood home outside High Point, with her husband of twenty years, their fifteen-year-old daughter, and their nine-year-old son.
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