You need to have your child tested during the third, fifth, and eighth grades. Some parents test every year so that the children can become expert at this type of testing. Appendix D-8 lists the standardized tests approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Christian Liberty Press supplies the California Achievement Test. Call them for details. You cannot test your own children for the required state testing. Some support groups make testing available, as do some evaluators. The law requires that your school district test your children if you request it. Most homeschoolers arrange independent testing.
Normally, you would take your children to an outside test site to be tested. The law does not require this. If you feel it would benefit your child to be tested at home, this is perfectly legal. You can arrange for a qualified tester to give the tests in your home.
It should be noted that poor performance on the tests doesn’t limit your option to homeschool. As long as your evaluator will certify that your student is making appropriate progress, you will continue to have the legal right to home educate.
Which standardized tests are accepted in Pennsylvania?
As of July 1, 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has approved eight nationally normed standardized tests for homeschool use. They are:
- California Achievement Test
- Comprehensive Testing Program (CTPIV)
- Iowa Test of Basic Skills
- Metropolitan Achievement Test
- Peabody Achievement Individual Test–Revised Version
- Stanford Achievement Test
- Terra Nova
- Woodcock-Johnson Revised Tests of Achievement III
- Woodcock-Johnson IV
- Wechsler Individual Achievement Test III (WIAT-III)
The following additional tests were accepted until June 30, 2009:
- Comprehensive Testing Program (CTPII)
- Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills
- Peabody Individual Test
- Wide Range Achievement Test
- Woodcock Johnson Revised Tests of Achievement
How Can I Be Sure That My Children Will Test Well?
Step one is to begin testing them early. Test them in grades one and two so they will become comfortable with the testing procedures. Test them in third grade to have a test to turn in to the evaluator. It should be noted that you are the one who defines what grade your child is in, not the age of the student. If you have reason to believe your child won’t test well you may want to declare them in first grade at age 8 when you start school. Thus when you test them officially they will be age 10 and have two more years of academic growth.
Step two is to have them master the content. Read to your children. Work hard on punctuation, spelling, and basic grammar. This study will pay off on the tests for years. Read to your children. Do math through the summer between the first and second grade and also the summer between second and third grade. Read to your children. Math speed drills can be helpful as well. If you do this, your child will end up working fourth grade math when they take the test at the end of third grade. Read to your children. This alone makes them score better in math. It also helps to read to your children!
There are many places to get the tests. One of the simplest for homeschoolers is Bob Jones University Press. If you have a college degree you can apply to become a certified tester. You need to go to their web site and download an application to become a tester.
None of the preparations above will work unless your child reads well. The standardized tests are tests of reading above all else. How do you get readers? You read to your children. A good phonics program also helps.
Choosing and Ordering Standardized Tests
Standardized test publishers regulate the use of their tests closely in order to protect the reliability of their norms. Thus, they do not sell tests directly to the public, including homeschool parents. Christian textbook publishers, curriculum suppliers, and correspondence schools make standardized tests available to home schools in a variety of ways. They must guarantee the test publishers that certain conditions are met in administering the tests in order to be able buy the tests.
Which test should I use?
Four common tests are listed here. Your choice will most likely depend upon what is available to you. The scores are more helpful if you consistently use the same test from year to year. The different tests vary somewhat in the sub-scores provided to you. One test may give language sub-scores in mechanics, spelling, and expression. Another may give scores in capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and usage.
If you prefer one set of categories over another, you can choose which test you want to use on this basis. The actual content (the subject matter and skills) which the tests cover in elementary grades is quite standardized. The selection procedures, involving input and consensus from curriculum specialists and teachers, tend toward uniformity. Content is checked against widely used textbooks. Since textbooks have the same standardizing pressures they don’t frequently change.
Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
This is a top-rated, nationally standardized test designed to evaluate thinking skills. It is very similar to the Stanford Achievement Test, except that it takes less time to administer, permits greater flexibility for students taking a test out of grade level, and permits a wider grade range of students to be tested at the same time. Administrators must meet certain qualifying requirements, and the “Directions for Administering” are supplied and returned to the Iowa Administrators. The ITBS tests listening skills through grade 2. The test may be ordered from Bob Jones University online or by calling 1-800-845-5731. The publisher no longer allows distributors to sell to individual parents in Iowa. They may sell to schools in Iowa who will often allow homeschoolers to come and take the test in a supervised setting.
Stanford Achievement Test
This is another top-rated, nationally standardized test. The Stanford tests listening skills through grade eight, and includes the scores from Science/Social Studies in the Complete Composite score. To test your own children, Stanford no longer requires two additional non-family members to be tested along with your children (this change was made in 2009). Test administrators are required to meet certain qualifying requirements, and “Directions for Administering” must be purchased. Tests may be ordered from Bob Jones University Press, 1-800-845-5731.
California Achievement Test (CAT)
This test is popular among Christian schools and homeschools because it contains more traditional values. It tests 2nd through 12th grades. Tests may be obtained through a variety of sources including HSLDA. Be sure to specifically request percentile scoring and/or stanine results, otherwise some providers will send only raw scores and grade equivalents.
California Achievement Test (CAT/5)
This test is an updated version of the CAT, testing grades K-12 in reading, language, spelling, mathematics, study skills, science and social studies. Computer-generated reports will arrive within 2-3 days via email, including the grade equivalent, national percentile ranking, and stanine for each subject tested. The test is offered through Piedmont Education Services.
Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS)
The PASS Test was developed specifically for homeschool students in grades 3-8. It has certain similarities to other achievement tests in that it estimates student achievement in the subjects of reading, language, and math. But unlike most other tests, it is not timed, consists of multiple test levels instead of just one per grade, and includes homeschool percentiles and tips for improvement. You can order the test through Hewitt Homeschooling.
Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS)
In addition to what many other tests cover, the CTBS covers science, social science and reference skills for grades one through twelve. With the CTBS scores you will also receive a professional critique. The test is available from the Sycamore Tree, 2170 Meyer Place. Costa Mesa, California 92627, 1-949-650-4466.
Many people ask, “Should we order practice tests?” About half of homeschoolers use them and half do not. It is up to each individual family to choose what is best for their children. Some families feel that problem areas are discovered before the achievement test and can be dealt with in a timely manner. Others feel like it is a waste of time because they already know the weak areas.
How Should You View the Results?
Keep in mind that there may be only three questions on a particular skill and on the basis of those, a child is scored as average, below average, or above average on that skill. If you spend any time at all helping your child with his studies, you already have a more insightful assessment than such a test score gives.
Parents may get upset or depressed because their “brilliant” child did not score brilliantly on a test. They have even considered taking their child out of the home study situation and placing him back in school, all because of one test! You may rest assured that no school would change the course of a child’s education over such an incident.
On the other hand, there is a danger in trying to down-play the value of tests. If the parent decides to ignore the test scores as meaningless, he may, in the process, ignore a learning problem. A balance is necessary.
Be sure to praise your child for the strong areas and work on the weak areas. The weak areas may be the priorities for your next year. When you have to skip some classes because of a time crunch, skip the strong areas. There may be areas that you have not even covered because you didn’t realize they were basic skills. Standardized test scores can help you choose curricula for the following school year.