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Standardized Testing In Your Homeschool


It's standardized testing week in our homeschool. 

You knew I would have some thoughts about this if you've been following along on my Facebook Page!

We are required (per law in the state of Georgia) to test once every three years, beginning in the third grade. My sixth grader and second grader are both taking the ITBS. 

HSLDA has a comprehensive article about testing on its site.  I suggest (if you have questions about what tests to take, etc....) that you read it carefully. 

*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Page for more details.

Standardized testing is so FOREGIN to my children, but I'm thankful to be able to test them in our home and use the results for my own purposes (which will be putting them in a file and keeping them on record should anyone ever need to see them).

You already know that I believe we cannot STANDARDIZE OUR CHILDREN. 

A few observations about standardized testing (and I speak only from the standpoint of using the ITBS):

Standardized Tests May Contain Outdated Information


Ask a child sitting near you if they can name what the arrow is pointing to. The correct answer is FILM.

In this section of the second grade ITBS listening test a child is supposed to bubble in under a picture that has a certain vowel sound. 

This particular question stumped my son - because he had no idea what 35 mm film was!

I've spotted a few other questions like this, too. This was just the most glaring example.


A Standardized Test May Insult Your Child's Intelligence

If you only read REAL, LIVING books in your home then a standardized test will most definitely insult your child's intelligence.

The reading passages are twaddle (textbook like examples that are just fluff) and the comprehension questions are surface level at best.

What's really sad about this is that these reading passages are what children are given as a steady diet in our public schools.

So, I guess a standardized test might not insult the average public school child's intelligence. 

The Test Might Be a Good Measure of How Your Child Stacks Up in Math

I've found the math portions in both the sixth and second grade tests to be very true to what my children are currently studying in math.

My daughter (who is completing Saxon 7/6 homeschool math) is faring fine with the math. It's hard for her, but math isn't her strong suit, and this will give us an idea of some concepts we can work on during the summer.

My son (who is completing Saxon 3, but technically in the second grade) found the math very easy. Math is his strong suit. 

Theses Tests Prepare Your Child To "Play the Testing Game" Later in Life

In our liberal education world, testing is everything, right?

If your child does well on the SAT they have a better chance of getting into a good college. Getting into a good college assures your child of a good job one day -- or maybe NOT.  Our world is changing in this regard (but that's a completely separate post, isn't it?).

Testing your child on a regular basis prepares them to play the testing game, so you need to decide if you want to do this.

Some people don't have a choice, because of state requirements. 

I have a choice and I know what it will be. I will expose my children to just enough testing so they will be able to cope with larger tests as they get older. I don't want to put them at a disadvantage, but I want them to know they are MORE THAN A TEST.

Teach Your Child to "Bubble In" Before They Test

"Bubbling In" is a foreign concept to children who have never been in school.

The only reason my son knew how to do it was from our spelling curriculum, Spelling Workout (which we LOVE). This curriculum takes on a similar format to the spelling portion of the ITBS, so it's good preparation. 

My daughter (who was in school until third grade) knew how to bubble in.

She was funny before testing started. The night before she said, 

"Be sure to get plenty of rest and eat a good breakfast!" - school speak!

Have Someone Else Test Your Child

If you can afford to send your child for testing, do that. 

Our homeschool group offers yearly test administration. We did not take advantage of it this year because I wanted to save some money and do it at home.


My son is more free to complain (he's a perfectionist and come unglued when he doesn't know what a picture of 35 mm film is!) with me and I think would do better testing with someone else. 

I can administer my kids' tests because I have a Bachelor's Degree (I ordered the tests through Seton Hall). It was approximately $80 to rent the test booklets and have them scored. So, I'm still paying money by doing it myself. 

Don't Make A Big Deal About It! 

I'm trying not to make a big deal about our testing, especially for my youngest child.

These assessments are SO different than their daily instruction. I can see the disconnect in his eyes as I'm reading him some portions of the tests. It's almost as if he's thinking:

"Why are you reading me this stuff when you normally read me such beautiful literature?"

I tell my kids these are required tests from the state. I also emphasize to them that the state needs a way to make sure kids are learning things and I leave it at that. They already know we don't subscribe to the educational philosophy of the public schools, so it makes sense to them.

With that being said, it does teach my children that we sometimes need to obey by rules that don't make sense. It shows them I have a healthy respect for authority - and I can voice my opposition to these tests in a logical, reasonable manner.

{ If you unschool your kids, then they really will be floored by the content on these tests! }

I'm curious... have you tested your kids yet? If so, what test did you use and did you administer the test? Does your state require testing? 

Let's start a discussion! 

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Reader Comments (14)

CT does not require testing or any mandatory reporting. I have chosen not to test my girls. When they take the PSAT/SAT I will have them take a test prep class to prepare them. Part of me hopes that they choose colleges that do not require the SAT out of solidarity for those of us who are against standardizing our children.

It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next 5-10 years. The college bubble may be bursting, but college grads are the only group of workers who are experiencing monetary growth. Colleges are moving away from SAT/standardized tests for admission purposes but most states just adopted Common Core (I shudder....). Rather than fixing the problem we seem to be breaking is more. I don't have an answer and it causes me stress even though my girls are years away from college.

I remember the test related illness that Grace went through every March when she was in school. She tested very very well but the physical toll her body went through (she got stress related pain) was horrible. I still have resentment at our school for the lack of attention they paid to Lilah when she was being withdrawn. They never acknowledged her departure (she was not at test taking age) yet when Grace was withdrawn they were very very interested and concerned and wanted conferences (she tested very well). When adults are making decisions based on norm, average, mean and mode, you can pretty much guarantee the child gets lost among the numbers.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJess

We don't test. We currently live in Ontario, Canada. It isn't required here because we are not using the same curriculum as our area. The only people who have to take it are school children (with no special needs) who are taking the curriculum. I think that they realize that what we take and what the school takes are two different things. Every province has a completely different curriculum and they do some of the same subjects, but at different times. When I lived in Alberta, Canada we were not required to test either, but did have a facilitator see us twice a year. We also got money from the government to cover some of our expenses. When we were registered with them it was around $800/child if not following their curriculum and doubled that if you were. We are unschooling but not radically. I hope your testing goes well for you. We enjoy trivia and that is close enough to testing as any of us would like to get.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRacingMom

Hey Mary,
Well..we've talked about this a little before. I am required to test ever.single.year. Not fun. However, this is the first year I've used ITBS. Before I was using the CAT. That test was pretty easy for my girls. This year I chose ITBS because it would be a little more challenging. Today will be day 2. So things are OK so far. I need to read the reading comp selections...even though they have completed them. I have the same feelings as you do on the math. (And wow for your boy doing so well at math!) I don't agree with the shouldn't define our kids' abilities. I've assured mine of this...but also throughout the year have told them that these tests are important to the state and they look at our scores just like public school determining grade promotion. At least that is what I've been led to believe. Thank you for your input!

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlyce

We just finished up Lauren's required standardized testing. I agree with your statement: "With that being said, it does teach my children that we sometimes need to obey by rules that don't make sense. It shows them I have a healthy respect for authority - and I can voice my opposition to these tests in a logical, reasonable manner." That's how I feel about it girls know how I feel about various requirements related to homeschooling in our state, but they also experience me complying with those requirements because they are necessary for us to continue to homeschool "legally".
As you know, we "unschool" (if you want to call it that), but I would not say that Lauren was at all floored by the content on the test that she took. She really does not like testing makes her anxious...but material-wise, she had no problems.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

We do the ITBS with our co-op next week. I know I could never fairly administer a test to my own child, so I love the co-op testing situation. It also allows an undistracted environment without younger siblings in the room, since my 3rd grader is the only one old enough to test. At our co-op some moms take the younger kids to play while other moms administer the tests.

I showed my daughter the film question, and she had a good guess, but it wasn't quite right. She guessed "one of those old tapes that plays music." :-). I used it as a test strategy lesson -- if the other answers are clearly not right and you don't know what the last thing is, it is probably that last thing. :-)

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten

Hello, we're forced to test every year. My friend has children in the public school. Last year they stressed that Pluto wasn't a planet. One of the questions on this year's standardized testing was "What is the smallest planet?" and the answer was of course Pluto

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Firecracker will be in third grade next year, and since we live in the state of Georgia he'll have his first test next year. Since we're almost unschoolers, I worry about it just a little bit. I don't worry about how he'll do. I worry about his self-confidence if he doesn't do as well as he thinks he should.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

We've done the CAT or CAT Survey. Testing yearly is one evaluation option in Ohio (another is keeping a portfolio and having it reviewed by a licensed teacher). Testing takes less work for me than portfolios, so that's what we do now because life with soon to be eight children (one with medical needs) is flat out busy. I administer the tests and get ours from Family Learning Organization, about $37 per test. We actually will do this year's testing at the end of this month.

Do I find value in the tests? Nope, not really. I've blogged about it before. But it's one way to fulfill the law so we do it. All I have to turn in is their composite score for the whole test, and they have to have greater than a 33% on it. Mmmhmmm, failure apparently IS an option and they still pass.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTristan

We test next week! This year I'll be testing two of my daughters and my younger two will be stuck in the basement with their dad! Not optimal at all. Math is my oldest daughter's weakest subject; in fact she's pretty far behind what the school would consider comparable to sixth grade. On the other hand, her reading is equivalent to high school level, so should I really fret?! Part of this is my fault for switching math curriculum in the middle of a year. I won't make that mistake again! We've been "practicing" with exercises I ordered from Rainbow. I simply wanted my girls to have a flavor for what they'll see. Fun times!

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

My kids have never been to school. They have never been tested. They do take karate classes and every month, the instructor tests them and givens them a stripe if they did well. So many stripes, then you test for a new belt. My kids forget when test day comes by. They have no consciousness of it, until we walk into class and they realize it's "test" day. They are calm and have no fear. Because they do their best in every class, they know that when the test day comes they will do well. However, the children that go to Public school or the homeschooled kids that have been tested are always nervous and afraid. Test day is no different than any other class day. The instructor asks them to do the same things they did on every other class. The difference is the fear that have been instilled in these kids that test day is hard, that if you do anything wrong you might fail miserably. And if you fail, you are doomed!! Some kids ask to practice the test and then come back the next day to do it all over again for real this time. My kids never practice. They have already practiced all month long! They are ready! It's all in their heads! It's pretty crazy. And you know what, we do that to ourselves every day with so many other situations. We talk ourselves into major terror of simple things.

Back to the standardize tests...we live in AL. We are not required to test... I am not planning to test. I am not worried about college. If my kids decide that they want to go to college, they will prepare accordingly then. I am striving to be anxious for nothing, living one day at a time, by the Grace of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit that reminds me daily "don't worry. Trust God."

I find this interesting. I'm not a home educating parent (yet, I hope to be!) but I was in what you call public school and what we in the UK call state school. Standardised testing is quite different here. I've never bubbled in; the first time I read that, I had no idea what it meant! We do have a very few computer-readable tests but mostly the tests I've taken have involved long written answers. I'm glad there weren't many of them. I definitely agree with some of the other commenters in that schools teach children that they need to get stressed and anxious about tests. It doesn't make sense, since that anxiety gets in the way of performing to the best of their ability.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMay

In NY our kids are required to be tested every other year beginning in 5th grade and every year beginning in 9th grade. Even though I consider us to be unschoolers, I've always used math books because of this. If your state requires testing then you'd better make sure your kids can read, comprehend what they read, and do grade equivalent math.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

In Alabama, as Tereza said, we are not required to test. Keilee has never had any sort of standardized tests besides the ones she asked me to print out and take for fun. I don't intend on every testing her. I'm with Jess, I am hoping more and more colleges move away from requiring SATS. It is happening already. I too, am very anxious to see what the next few years brings in colleges.

May 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

We live in PA, where standardized tests are the norm every year for public schooled students. As homeschoolers we only have to test in grades 3, 5 and 8. I honestly ABHOR standardized tests. My children are strong in other intelligences (see and after taking classes to be an educator myself at one time, I do not believe these tests truly showcase what a child has learned or is capable of learning. They don't address multiple learning styles, are - as you pointed out - outdated at times, and have findings that can be manipulated as well. Not to mention that some students just never test well...testing stresses them out and they freeze up. My 5th grade son is like that -- smart, but not a great test-taker...I felt awful having to have someone administer the test and knowing that his answers were not going to reflect his knowledge. He is a builder - meticulous in Lego designs. He is observant - he picks up on obscure facts. Yet this test will likely show him to be lacking in some manner. A very unfair label for a child who is very keen but just not a good robot...My 8th grade daughter is suddenly experiencing eye issues this year and had difficulty with the small print on the test, often not completing a section because she had to strain her eyes to see the words. I have decided not to stress out over the results at all...I KNOW my children's strengths, and they are things that are not likely to ever be reflected on this type of test. It is unfortunate that the government puts such emphasis on these ridiculous tests that serve only to pigeon-hole children and their potential.

May 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMary H.

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