Standardized Testing Options for Homeschoolers

TestYesterday we ordered the standardized tests we’ll take to fulfill the homeschool requirements of our state.  We used Brewer Testing Service because of the ease of ordering.  Their customer service has been excellent. (I’ll tell you more about that below.)

This year, all three of my kids will be testing.  They will be taking different tests:

  • First Grade: I am having ED take the Terra Nova Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. She is doing a paper version.
  • 4th and 6th Grades: This year, both of my older kids wanted to do the Stanford Online Test.  This is an online test, administered (remotely) by Brewer Testing. We set up a time/date that works for our family. The kids will take it on our computer.  My son (in particular) liked this better because it was not timed.  He gets *so* stressed by tests (even if he’s under the time limit), that this seems like a better fit at this point.

Last year we had the VERY unpleasant experience of having our standardized tests destroyed and lost in the mail on the way back to the testing company. We had done the CAT (California Achievement Test). Although I put in a “lost mail” claim and described everything, we never heard word back (from the post office, that is).  And, because I was sick (0r for whatever reason) we didn’t make photocopies of the answer sheets like we usually do. Sigh… The staff at Brewer Testing Services were wonderful to work with about the matter… and quickly helped us set up another round of testing.  (Poor kids!)  So… my older two kids had to take TWO sets of standardized tests last summer. The second time we opted for the Stanford Online Test; the results were back in my hands (online) within days once the kids finished their testing (I think it might have been within a half a day. It was really quick!! — I just can’t remember exactly because it was sandwiched between the 5th and 6th surgery I had on my ear/balance system last year. Ugh.).  Having done both tests within 6 or 7 weeks of one another, LD had definite opinions about what he wanted to take this year (ie. the Stanford Online Test).

DD, on the other hand, really enjoys testing and she was fine taking whatever…. though she had a slight preference for the online test. (She said, “I can’t really explain why, I just liked that one a little more.”)

We opted to take the full battery of tests (though our state does not require us to test in social studies or science). These are the subjects covered in the Stanford Test:

  • Reading
    Word Analysis
    Problem Solving & Concepts
    Social Studies

Another standardized testing option is the Iowa Tests. I have a friend whose kids have taken this most years.  She said it is a bit more challenging that the CAT test.  Her kids haven’t taken the Stanford Test (so neither of us have a good way of comparing the Iowa to the Stanford tests), but they have taken both the CAT and Iowa test each year.

Another testing service that homeschoolers can use is Seton Testing Services.  We used that for a couple of years, but switched last year to Brewer Testing Services.  We have had good experiences with both. Last year when our test results were lost in the mail the staff at Brewer Testing Service were fantastic to work with.

While we’re not wild about taking the standardized tests because they don’t really test the kids on what we’ve studied/covered in our homeschool, the kids always do fine on them. And, the testing gives them experience on taking formal tests.

Testing can also help me figure out if there are gaps and things I think we should cover in our homeschool. I decided to add in our Civics and Government Unit this year in part because I realized we hadn’t really touched on that in our homeschool. The kids are also reading an American History series this year to cover some materials we aren’t really touching on (since our history units were/are on Native Americans (fall)  and on the Middle Ages (spring).) The kids really like the American history books and it’s something they can do on those days when we don’t have time to sit down all together. It is also why are started covering some grammar trouble spots back years ago — and why I made the various grammar worksheets and added those into our homeschool from time to time: 11 comma rules & practice sheets and this set: comma rules/practice sheets, the apostrophe practice sheets, etc. etc.

Of course, we have the option in our state of creating a portfolio and having it reviewed by a qualified educator/teacher, but because of my personality, I know I would spend *way* too much time putting that together for each of the three kids (and besides, that’s partly why I have the blog… to keep track of our homeschool activities). The standardized test feels easier and, like I said, gives the kids experience with testing in a structured way.  It’s just another experience/skill (in my mind)… I know others have very strong opinions on the matter.

That’s about it for now! Hope all is going well for you!

Please note: We are not affilitaed in any way with the testing services mentioned above. These are our personal experiences and views.

See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! ~Liesl


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