All About Testing, Part 1:
Each year, between 8 and 18, you have to test or assess once annually. Here’s the law:
RCW 28A.200.010(1)(c) Ensure that a standardized achievement test approved by the state board of education is administered annually to the child by a qualified individual or that an annual assessment of the student’s academic progress is written by a certificated person who is currently working in the field of education.
Let’s take those one at a time:
The Test option.
The test has to be three things:
- A Standardized achievement test (so, not a placement test, or a end-of-year test from your curriculum company, or an IQ test). From your youth, you may recognize the CAT or the Iowa, the Terra Nova, or the BASI. From WA public schools over the last decade, you’d recognize the WASL, the HSPE, the MSP, and the Smarter Balanced. From highschool, you’ll recognize the SAT, ACT, and PSAT (these all count toward the annual testing, so you don’t need to “double up” in those years).
- Approved by the state board of education. The SBE doesn’t want to field 10,000 homeschool family’s questions about testing, so they ruled that if Buros (https://marketplace.unl.edu/buros/) has reviewed it, it’s a-okay with them. There are (pretty literally) no tests you can purchase as a parent that haven’t been reviewed by Buros. (There’s really only about a half dozen standardized achievement tests out there available to homeschool parents anyway).
- Administered by a qualified individual. It is the testing companies who qualify individuals to administer their tests. In some cases, like, say, the Woodcock-Johnson, you have to be a psychologist who has specialized training in the administration of this test to give it. Obviously, most of us do not qualify. But there are plenty of companies catering to homeschool families’ testing needs, and if they will sell it to you to give to your own children at home, then it fulfills this part of the law.
Note on tests: Most tests are normed to be given in the spring of the year of the name of the test. So, for example, a 5th grade test is meant to be given somewhere between April and June, at the end of 5th grade. This has an effect on the percentile score. There’s a raw score (how many you got right or wrong), and then the percentile score (how well did you do against all the other people who’ve taken this test?) If you take the 5th grade test in the fall, as you’re beginning, and it’s normed for the spring, then you’re up against everyone who already finished 5th grade, not those who are just starting that work, and your percentile is likely to be lower. There are some companies now who are norming for other points in the year, because they’ve had enough homeschoolers do them at other points in the year to have data for those percentiles.
The Assessment Option.
The assessment also has three criteria:
- That it’s written.
- That it’s performed by a WA certificated person (a teacher).
- That the teacher be currently working in the field of education.
(It is WHO’s position that the teacher need not be working for money to be working in the field of education. If said teacher is homeschooling h** own children, that counts).
So the big question on everyone’s mind is going to be this: How do I pick which one to do?
- If you’re just starting out, or if you have a kid with huge test anxiety, or you have a kid with special needs, or you want some real life interaction and feedback, you might want to choose an assessment and do it right now, as you’re starting out, to have a baseline.
- If you want to know how your kidlet stacks up against kids of the same age over the past 40-50 years, you might use a test.
- If you just want to fulfill your obligation under the law, choose the cheapest, easiest thing you can find, do it, file it in your records, and move on with your life.
For us, we had two purposes:
- Be in compliance with the law.
- Let Alaetheia have experience with the standardized test format prior to the SAT/ACT/PSAT.
After a few years, I gave up even opening the test scores when they came in — as far as I could tell, they just said, “Never try to teach this child anything, because then she bombs that section of this test.” I literally have a file drawer full of unopened test scores upstairs (the child is 21 and graduates with two bachelors’ degrees this June).
The test/assessment exists for YOU to have an external metric by which to measure your child. The scores are for you and you alone (unless you go enroll in a school — we’ll talk about that later, in the records). Do the thing that makes the most sense for you and your kidlet. You can test this year and assess next year. You can do all assessments or all tests. Totally up to you.
Some questions that will come up:
Do I have to test my <8yo (my “under 8yo child”)?
Can I test my <8yo?
Yes — you’re educationally free and may do or not do whatever you want with the <8yo.
Can I test with the school?
Yes. Go to the school in late September to find out their testing dates and get them to order extra test(s). One note: make sure that you will get the scores for your files. A few years back, when they did the Smarter Balanced Field Test, no one (not the teachers, not the schools, not the parents) got scores, so that would not have counted for the testing requirement that year.
My kidlet turns 8 at the end of the school year, do I have to test h**?
No, wait until the first full year.
What happens if my kidlet does poorly on the test or assessment?
The law has an answer for this: “If, as a result of the annual test or assessment, 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.” (RCW28A.200.010(1)(c).
Do I have to turn the scores in somewhere?
Asked and answered, and the answer is still “no.” (Unless you transfer to and enroll in a public school — more on this in the post on keeping records).
Are you sure?
What if my child is working at wildly different grade levels in things?
If, for example, your child is 10/11yo and would be a 5th grader, you might choose a 5th grade test. If *he is working at a 7th grade and above level, I might choose a 7th grade test. This goes the other way, too — if you have the same child working consistently at a 4th or 3rd grade level, don’t frustrate them with the 5th grade test — use the one that’s appropriate to h** stage of development.