I don’t have to give standardized tests. Where I live there are no requirements for standardized testing. We don’t have to do a portfolio review or even check in with anyone about our homeschooling. Yet, I still give my kids standardized tests.
I continually hear from parents and homeschoolers about the downfalls of standardized testing. I agree that standardized testing is out of control in our school systems. Back in the 1990s when I worked in a Texas school district, I had the opportunity to see the whole school year geared toward passing a test. Since then it seems like this testing culture has increased and exists all over the USA. But once upon a time, standardized testing was just something that took maybe a week out of the school year. There was no preparation. There was no teaching to the test. The rest of the school year was spent educating for education’s sake. Standardized testing wasn’t always the great beast that it has become.
So why do I choose to give my kids standardized tests?
1. Official record of homeschooling
Because there are no requirements where we live, I use the test results as an “official record” that my kids are learning and progressing in their education. I don’t give grades and we rarely have tests, so this is a marker that allows us to measure progress.
2. My kids like it
I loved the standardized testing week when I was in school. It was fun to have days that were different and no homework to bring home. In that vein, I’ve attempted to make our standardized testing days special. My kids rotate taking a subtest with free time. Our regular school work is set aside and the standardized testing days are seen as special.
3. Good practice for test taking skills
Standardized tests are the norm especially when you are looking at college entry. They give my children practice and familiarity with taking standardized tests.
4. An unbiased eye
Standardized tests are uniform. The administers of the test all have to say and do the same thing. The children’s answers are compared to other children to determine the score. It is an objective measure that is free from my own bias about my children. It is another eye into my children’s skills or knowledge. On a side note, I do agree that all tests have bias. The tests we take are biased toward children growing up and living in the USA. My children are not being raised in that culture. In general though, what I mean about an unbiased eye is that the tests are not evaluating my children through my eyes.
5. For information
This is my most important reason of all. Standardized tests give me information to help me evaluate what my children know and understand how they think. I carefully choose the level or type of standardized test that will give me the most information about my child. I go into it with some questions. I consider what I want to know. My atypical learners often leave me baffled with many questions.
When it is all said and done, I look over their results. I used to administer individual standardized tests to children in the school district. As a Speech-Language Pathologist I would give tests that would help me figure out more about a child’s difficulty. I would obtain scores for the test, but some of the most valuable information was obtained by looking over which items were answered correctly and which ones were incorrect. This is what I do with my children’s tests.
I look over my children’s tests and analyze their answers. Sometimes they surprise me with things that I expected them to miss and sometimes I shake my head wondering how they could have missed a question. I look at all their answers in the different categories and do a lot of thinking. I try to discover any patterns in what they missed and think about whether items were missed because we haven’t covered it, because of their learning style, because they struggle with the area, or some other reason. I also look at items correct and determine if that matches what I see in their everyday schooling. If the child does well in a subtest, but not in everyday life I consider what questions were asked and analyze why my child had no difficulty with the test or why my child has difficulty in everyday school work. I also consider whether their answers are an accurate reflection of their knowledge and abilities.
My boys just finished standardized testing and I’m about to send their tests to be scored. The scores will be helpful, but I’ve already obtained the most helpful information. I’ve learned more about how they learn. I’ve learned more about what my kids know. This knowledge will help me personalize their education even more.
In my opinion, standardized tests are just a tool. It can be used for good or it can be overemphasized and used to hinder true education. I’ve found that they can be used to enhance education by providing information to help me personalize my children’s education even more. I know more about my children’s strengths and weaknesses. I know more about how they think. As a teacher and a parent, understanding more about my kids is a good thing.
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