Homeschool Testing 101
What is homeschool testing and why do it?
From an academic perspective, whether homeschool testing or testing in their public school setting, an assessment is anything that gives an instructor information about what their student knows.
Testing is a crucial part of the teaching process. The purpose of all these kinds of tests is to learn more about your child so you can be a better homeschooler.
While homeschool parents have a front-row seat to their children’s learning, many worry about their own blind spots in assessing their kids or are unsure about how their kids’ performance compares to what would be expected in school. This can lead them to consider homeschool testing.
Other homeschool families test to meet legal requirements or to keep non-custodial parents in the loop.
Homeschool testing can be a great tool to learn about kids’ strengths and weaknesses, determine whether they are on track compared to their public-school peers, and measure growth over time. However, a lot of homeschool parents find testing confusing and stressful.
Some homeschool testing companies claim that public school standards were higher in the past, and therefore an older test is more rigorous than a current one. However, that claim does not hold up—the “Nation’s Report Card” shows that an average fourth-grade math student from 1990 would be in the bottom quarter of the class today.
Done well, testing tells you when your child is ready to move on to something new and when they need to spend more time mastering a topic. It tells you which lessons from earlier months or years stuck and what was forgotten.
In this post, we will take the mystery out of testing by explaining how tests work, what the terminology means, and how to use the results in your homeschool.
What are standardized tests?
Standardized tests are tests that are administered in a standardized way that allows for comparison among the people who take the test. These can be fixed or adaptive tests.
Fixed Standardized Tests
All students of a particular grade level answer the same questions.
Adaptive Standardized Tests
Questions adjust to the level of the student.
Students get questions at the right level for them – making this test option more accurate than fixed tests for all students.
Especially beneficial for students who are performing well above or well below grade level expectations.
Adaptive tests offer the same degree of challenge for all students – all students will get roughly the same number of questions correct on the test.
Their score is determined by the difficulty of those questions.
Types of Assessments and What They Measure
Below are the three types of assessments that can be used to help you understand where your student is in their learning.
Homeschool Boss administers NWEA’s MAP Growth assessments, which are norm-referenced assessments.
Usually an informal observation of what your child has learned and what topics they need more instruction in.
Using these observations to adjust what you do with your kids learning is the hot new thing in teaching today.
● Having a conversation in the car about a book they are reading – this can help you gauge how well they are understanding it.
● Playing a board game together – you might notice some math skills that are giving them trouble.
Criterion Referenced Assessments (CRA)
This is probably what you imagine when you think of testing. CRA’s are a little more formal than a conversation.
These tests show if the student has learned specific skills based on pre-specified criteria – student scores are not compared to scores of other students.
Goal is usually a perfect score or at least to “pass”.
These are most useful if they are aligned with your teaching goals and curricula.
● A math test at the end of a chapter.
● A weekly spelling test.
Norm Referenced Assessments (NRT)
Formal tests that compare the homeschooled child’s performance with a “norm group” of children who took the test at some point in the past.
NRTs are not pass/fail.
NRT scores are primarily about comparing performance, not specific skills.
It is important that the norms are recent and use large groups to be reliable, rather than using a test with questions that match your curricula.
MAP® Growth™ is a nationally norm-referenced computer-adaptive assessment that accurately measures performance.
MAP Growth is using 2020 norms.
See all normed test comparisons here.
● NWEA MAP Growth
● IQ Tests