Friday, February 22, 2008

To Test or Not To Test?

February 22, 2008

On all the homeschooling lists in Tennessee, a proposed bill HB2795 is making headlines.
Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) has introduced HB2795 which will require all students whether public, private or home schooled to submit to state testing. You can read all about it on Kay Brooks' blog. She's a Nashville homeschooler who is also on the school board, and is always on top of the latest proposals.

So this bill brings about the question: to test or not to test? Apparently, Hardaway wants to take this decision out of the hands of parents. In our state, one most register in one of three ways in order to be compliant with the law. In extremely simple terms,
* you can register with your school system as an independent homeschooler. With this option, you must have your child tested at the school in grades 5, 7, and 9.
* you can register with Church Related School (CRS) and follow their requirements (Some require testing every year.)
* or you can “attend” a CRS and educate your child at home, which is a satellite campus. (Testing is usually not required.)

We fall into the Option 3 category, although we were Option 1 until our oldest reached 5th grade. As our choices indicate, we don’t participate in standardized testing. I know the arguments for testing among homeschoolers and I think they are valid—for families who choose to test. Some of them include:
* Achievement tests will give you an overall picture of how your kids are doing
* Tests will help the parent to see their strengths and weaknesses.
* Tests can help you to track their progress over the years.
* Tests can also provide practice and confidence for other tests, like college entrance exams and placement tests.
* Test scores can be shown “as evidence” to grandparents or other family members who disapprove of homeschooling.

And I know lots of arguments against standardized testing, including:
* The primary purpose of many tests is to rank students, teachers, and schools. Some will be labeled as successes and others as failures, and the vast majority will be labeled mediocre. The child learns that the purpose of learning is to get a high score.
* Testing is based on the public/private school's idea of what a child should know, and when he should know it. Standardized tests tend to narrow the curriculum to what will be tested. Obviously, this is a problem for those of us who don’t follow their state’s scope and sequence.
* Standardized tests tend to focus attention on what students don’t know and can’t do, in situations unlike daily life. Poor test scores can decrease the confidence of both the parent/teacher and the child.
* Testing is superficial in that it doesn't really test the things (qualities) of highest value in a child. The child learns that thinking is not valued; getting the 'right' answer is the only goal.
* In order to properly prepare for tests, parents, like typical classroom teachers, might spend inordinate amounts of time teaching-to-the-test. In my opinion, this is a terrible waste of time before high school. Unless, of course, your kids enjoy taking tests and practicing for tests. I have a daughter who wanted a test prep workbook because she thought it would be fun.

Speaking of fun, I’ve heard lots of parents say that their kids think it is a holiday when they get to do their testing at a local umbrella school. Conversely, I know of kids in public schools who have ulcers—actually ulcers that require medication—partly because the emphasis on testing is so stressful.

And that is a great thing about having the freedom to choose to test or not to test. How many of us really believe that a child's intelligence, achievement, and competence can be represented adequately by standardized tests? Most homeschoolers who have their children tested find the tests to be merely a source of academic feedback or a simple way to notify the state that the children are being educated according to their standards. Most homeschoolers who choose not to use tests see standardized testing as unnecessary.

On a personal level, my ninth-grader is currently preparing for his first standardized test, the ACT. At this age, he knows that this is merely a step in the college entrance process. He understands the purpose of this standardized test and is preparing for it by taking on online course. I’m glad we had all those years of sitting on the couch reading and making dioramas instead of learning how to fill in bubbles (yes, he actually did this regularly when he was in public school for first grade).

So we've opted out of standardized testing before high school, but that is our choice. Like in all aspects of homeschooling, there is not one right answer for every family. In the words of Dr. H., hike your own hike, Rep. Hardaway. And let us hike ours.

Post A Comment!.....


Saturday, February 23, 2008 - loved this

Posted by bestsister (

thanks for this. I too often wonder about testing. You get in the frame of mind that you need it to *prove* to doubting relatives that we are really doing okay and that our kids aren't imbeciles. However, like with all things 'home', it really shouldn't be about what "they" think, but about doing what the Lord is calling our family too, and making the right choices for our circumstances. Thanks for the perspective check!

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Saturday, February 23, 2008 - Testing and NCLB

Posted by recon77 (

Smallworld is right, there is basically no NEED to test. Every state school teacher I know (and I know a lot) is against the testing of students as mandated by NCLB. Why then should homeschoolers be "required" to be tested when the precious state schoolers are trying to escape it???

No, this is all about power and control and, guess what? The children belong to the parents and God, NOT to the state. Children are NOT in the jurisdiction of the state at all, not in the slightest. Resist Tyranny!! Everyone write their state congressmen immediately. Give them no sleep!!!

NO TO TESTING....and go Ron Paul!!!

Edited by recon77 on Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 3:34 PM

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Saturday, February 23, 2008 - Hi Friend!

Posted by Anonymous (

We haven't tested our dc either. That's not to say that we won't down the road but I don't think it's one of those pressing issues. Testing would only tell me how they measure against their ps counterparts who in turn are calculated with those across the state and national levels who use state regulated curric. Whew, that's a mouthful.LOL. So I would perhaps do testing at some point just to see if they are on track of what's expected from others on that level. It does give you an outlook of where you stand. I dont thnk state should make testing a requirement for hs'ers. We had a similar bill brought up in my state and hsers acted upon it quickly. It quickly died.

Thanks for sharing.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - Untitled Comment

Posted by lcourtneymom (

"In the words of Dr. H., hike your own hike, Rep. Hardaway. And let us hike ours."

Agreed! I am not from Tennessee. In SC, we are not required to test. I have had my two oldest do it in 1st grade at our local Christian school because I wanted the information for my personal benefit.

But, this decision should definitely NOT be mandatory. I was a classroom teacher before I had kids, and I KNOW standardized tests are not always an accurate measure of a child's ability.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008 - stopping bye

Posted by kkzemadamson (

thanks for your post on testing, I've been really struggling with weather "to test or not to test". Like you, I see both sides, and because lately I"ve felt lik a failure to my children, I almost want to test them so that I know they are learning something. But then I come back to trusting God and letting him take care of them.

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  1. That is a great article to :) I completely agree with you on waiting until high school and at that age they have a goal that they are working towards and it sheds a whole different light on why testing may be the appropriate path to take at that time, but for the younger years I just don't think it's necessary *grin*. Thanks for sharing the link with me. Have a fantastic weekend!

  2. Stopping over from your visit to my blog about testing...didn't mean to steal your title thunder! LOL Maybe i need to google a title choice first! Too funny...

    I love that it is my choice. Will be working on a different way to satisfy me that they are learning without sacrificing to the bubble monster!


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