Friday, February 24, 2012
Considering Standardized Testing
Ah, spring! When a homeschooling mom's thoughts turn to standardized testing.
In my state, we are required to administer a nationally-recognized standardized test every three years beginning in third grade. I know that some states require more, and others require less.
The homeschooling community's opinions on standardized testing vary greatly. (Quelle surprise, eh?) I know of homeschooling families who choose to test annually. These families regard the tests as general yardsticks: where within the "norm" does my child perform? A good score brings a sense of satisfaction. The child is learning what he or she should, based on a nationally-normed rubric. In essence, standardized testing proves that their home education program is successful.
For other families, the idea of standardized testing sets their teeth on edge. Their methods of education differ greatly from the national norm; why should they subject their children to a pointless exercise, needlessly upsetting the family with what is ultimately a huge waste of time? Moreover, the idea of any institutional intervention rankles.
Those who choose hybrid schools often have the decision made for them; the tests are administered annually, period. Perhaps a family that strongly objects would be given the option to decline the test. I don't know.
I'm in the middle. Since I'm required by law to have my children tested in three-year intervals, I do it. When Miss Priss was in fifth grade, I tested her then, too, just to "see." I've decided not to do the same with Tiny Girl.
I also choose to administer the test at home instead of taking my children to a testing venue. I find this produces far less anxiety and far less schedule interference. I've used two testing services: Family Learning Organization and Seton Testing Services. Both are good.
And there's a bit more to it. Since my children will undoubtedly take the ultimate in standardized tests -- the SAT -- in a few years, I think it's good for them to get a taste of standardized tests. I want them to be prepared when the time comes. Undue anxiety -- perhaps even shock -- is not the best internal atmosphere in which to approach the SAT. A little familiarity now will help later.
My public school friends, interestingly, seem to view standardized testing as a necessary evil. For some, it's a hoop to jump through. Either their child gets it or she doesn't. Others take a more serious view, going to what I see as great lengths to facilitate their child's good performance: tutoring, better than average meals during testing week, no playdates or activities during test week, etc. I was surprised when I recently learned that seventh-graders now take the SAT for early preparation. "What about the PSAT?" I asked. "Oh, we take that, too," my daughter's friend replied. Good grief.
Frankly, the public schools' penchant for testing is one of the things that turned me against public school and toward home education. When Miss Priss was in first grade, I was aghast to learn the volume of testing to which she was subjected. Some tests I knew about, such as our state's own standardized test. But others were never mentioned to parents. I guess the school kept parents on a need-to-know basis, and we didn't need to know.
Well. This is one parent who demands to know what's going on with my child.
What are your thoughts on standardized testing? Does your state require any? If so, do you comply? And for my international friends: does your country/region require testing for homeschooled children?