Twenty Questions about Homeschool Annual Testing
1. What does the homeschool law require of parents regarding annual assessment of their students?
a. Homeschooled students between the ages of 8 and 18 must be annually evaluated using an approved standardized achievement test or a written non-test assessment.
b. Standardized test scores and/or written evaluations are to be kept as part of your child’s permanent records.
c. If your child transfers to a public or private school, copies of tests results are to be provided if requested.
2. What standardized tests can homeschoolers use?
Any standardized test approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) may be used for homeschool testing. Go to Standardized Tests for more information and for an updated list of tests.
3. When and where should tests be taken?
Homeschooled students are to be tested annually from ages 8-18. Some standardized tests are administered by parents, and others are offered in group settings around the state by a number of test providers, while non-test assessments are usually done in the child’s home or the assessment provider’s choice of location. Check the WHO website for a list of test and assessment providers.
4. Can my child test at the local public school?
Yes. According to the Home-based Instruction law, Washington public schools are legally required to provide ancillary services, which includes standardized testing, for homeschoolers. However, the public schools are not required to test their students annually. If your child is in a grade which does not have testing at the local school, you will need to seek another test provider or option.
5. Can I test my child in my home using mail order tests?
The standardized test option is to be administered by a “qualified” individual. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) determines that the testing company, in their instructions for administering their tests, identifies those who they deem “qualified.” Many testing companies merely require that you be a homeschool parent to administer their tests. The Home-Based Instruction law states that the annual assessment option is a progress report written by a “certificated person currently working in the field of education”.
6. Who keeps the test results? Do I have to show them to anyone?
As the parent, you keep the test results, and no one else needs to see them. Homeschoolers in Washington are not required to submit their children’s test scores to any government agency or school. If your child tests with a local public or private school, the school may keep copies on file; you will need to ask them about this. Check with your test provider to see what his/her policy is regarding whether he/she will keep a copy of your child’s test results.
7. What is the difference between the standardized and the assessment testing options?
Non-test assessments are one-on-one evaluations with a certificated teacher currently working in the field of education and the homeschooled child. The student’s work (portfolio) may be reviewed and/or the child may be given diagnostic tests in the areas of reading, math and language. The law does not prescribe a set format or specific testing tools required for a non-test assessment. These written evaluations are as individual and varied as the test provider and the homeschooled student. A standardized test is to be administered a qualified individual, as specified by the test manufacturer. Your child’s performance is objectively and statistically compared to that of other students who have tested at the same grade level at the same time of year.
8. Who is qualified to provide non-test assessments and standardized tests?
The non-test assessment must be done by a person with a Washington State teaching certificate who is currently working in the field of education. The publishers of the standardized tests specify who is qualified to administer their tests.
9. How do I choose an assessment or a standardized test provider?
WHO provides a list of test providers on the WHO website, www.WashHomeschool.org . Under“Homeschooling” on the home page, click “Information & Resources” and then on the next page, click on “Homeschooling Testing Services”. Ask homeschooling friends for recommendations and/or check with a local support group or homeschool co-op for suggestions.
10. What questions should I ask a non-test assessment provider?
1. How do you qualify? What is your educational background and experience? How long have you been doing non-test assessments?
2. Have you homeschooled your own children or are you familiar with homeschooling?
3. How do you determine at what level my child is performing? What subject areas do you evaluate and how will you do so? What type of report/results can I expect?
4. How long does the assessment take? Where will it occur? What is the cost?
5. What will I need to provide you, the assessor? What do I need to do to prepare my child for the assessment?
6. Can you provide me with some references?
11. How do I decide which testing option in best for my child?
If your child is not yet reading or has difficulty focusing on a task for an extended period of time (30 minutes) and/or if you need more personal feedback or suggestions for homeschooling, the non-test assessment is probably the better choice. However, if you want statistical, objective information about how well your student performs as compared to public/private schooled students, then a standardized test would be the better option.
12. If I am using a homeschooling curriculum that provides testing, will that test fulfill the testing requirement of the law?
Our law requires that homeschooled students be evaluated by a teacher currently working in the field of education, which would be a non-test assessment, or that they take a standardized test approved by the State Board of Education (SBE). The tests offered by curriculum companies are usually placement tests and end of chapter or end of subject tests, and not standardized achievement tests. You can find the current list at www.sbe.wa.gov. Confirm that your homeschool curriculum provider uses a test that is in compliance with the SBE. See Question No. 5.
13. What information will I receive from a standardized test report?
Standardized achievement tests are “norm-referenced”, which means that the scores your child receives compare him/her to the same age students who took the test as part of the “norm” group. Scoring reports should include the Raw Score, Percentile Ranking, Stanine scores, and Grade Equivalencies in each of the subject areas tested.
The Raw Score is the number correct out of the number possible for a given subtest. The percentile ranking compares your student to the norm group and indicates their placement on a scale of 1%ile to 99%ile, with 50% as the mean (average). The Stanine Score compares your child to the norm group and indicates a score from 1 to 9 his/her placement. A Stanine Score of 4, 5, or 6 is considered in the average range.
The most misunderstood of all testing statistical data is the grade equivalency score, which is another comparison of your child to the norm group. If your child’s Reading Comprehension score is 5.3, this does NOT mean that your child reads at the 5th grade level, but only that his/her score compares to the average student in the 3rd month of 5th grade.
14. If an assessment or test shows that my child is below grade level, what happens?
The law states that if “….it is determined that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent shall make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency.”
15. If I never intend to enroll my child in a private or public school, does he/she still have to take a non-test assessment or a standardized test ?
The Washington State Home-based Instruction Law states that after the age of 8, all homeschooled children are to be evaluated with a non-test assessment or a standardized test. It is against the law to not have your child annually tested.
16. How do I know what will be covered on the test for my child’s grade level?
Standardized tests cover material for each grade level based upon the subject matter covered in public and private schools. Educational supply stores, online and local, carry materials that address the topics studied in each grade level.
17. If my child has taken and passed the GED, but is not yet 18 years old, must he/she be tested?
No. Once the GED is taken and passed, the student is deemed a high school graduate and does not need to comply with the public, private or homeschool education laws.
18. Can my high schooler take the college SAT, PSAT, or ACT to meet the testing requirement?
Yes, both the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) at www.collegeboard.com and the American College Test (ACT) at www.act.org are on the SBE list of approved tests.
19. What type of assessment is needed if my child is severely special needs?
In this situation, typically a non-test assessment would be the better choice. The “stage of development” would be the emphasis of this type of assessment. See Question No. 9.
20. How can I prepare my child for a non-test assessment or achievement test?
It is not necessary to focus on preparing your child for a non-test assessment or a standardized test. You want to know what your child knows, not just what he/she can recall after intense test preparation. If your child is taking a standardized test for the first time, it may be helpful to purchase a practice (this is not a prep test) to familiarize him/her with directions, bubbling and the types of questions and problems to expect on the test. You will want to encourage your child to do the best that he or she can do, to answer and check over all the questions.
Build feelings of confidence, not anxiety! Your children will key off of your emotions; if you are worried and anxious, they will be also. If you are positive and confident, they will be also. Remember the purpose of the homeschool testing requirement is for the parent to receive feedback on how they can better educate their children. It is better to focus on providing academic learning opportunities and materials so your child is provided with a strong educational foundation and the ability to reason and learn.