Knowledge Is Power: Homeschooling & Testing

I know, I know.  You’re probably having a “NO TESTING!” knee-jerk reaction.  After all, our public schools are obsessed with testing.  I hear from frazzled parents about how testing anxiety is wearing their kids out, and I hear from stressed and frustrated teachers how much they hate spending so much time teaching the tests.  Testing is the evil villain in our educational world.

But what if it didn’t have to be?  As homeschoolers, we can shape the tests for our kids.  We can limit how and when, and we can pick one that isn’t timed and gives them some breaks.  I’m currently researching tests at the moment because I want the Engineer to experience taking a test.

In our state of Virginia, we’re required to submit proof of progress every year.  The Engineer is too young to meet the requirement yet (it’s basically 1st grade and up) but I want him to experience testing and be familiar with the format because otherwise we’ll have to hire an evaluator to interview him and write a report.  Not cheap.

If he can handle the experience of taking a test, it would make things much easier.

But before I can order a test, I have one problem.  I have no idea which one to get!  A lot of the tests are rated by grade level.  Do I get him the first grade test?  Is he ready to attempt the 2nd grade test?  (that’s the one that the first graders take.  Makes no sense, I know.)  So I’m solving this problem with online assessments from MobyMax.

We’re doing the free version – it’s a little light, and doesn’t include the cool games and things that help motivate kids.  I figured that because they’re advertised as a “Find and Fix Learning Gaps” curriculum, it should be a fairly accurate assessment.

Tests are supposed to help us teachers get a better view of where the student stands.  Granted, not everyone takes tests well, and my 2e kiddo especially struggles.  Without the test, I could tell you the things that he’s working on and the things that he’s mastered, but I have no good feel for where that falls in the grade range.

So far we’ve done the math assessment.  It took about 30 minutes and I thought it was never going to end!  We did one for the Princess later and that took about 15 minutes.  Apparently she’s easier to grade than the Engineer.

The assessments are dynamic, meaning they increase the difficulty if the student keeps getting the correct answers.  The results were broken down by grade range and then compiled for a composite grade.  The Engineer is currently grade 2.8 in math.  At 5-years-old.  I’m flummoxed.

I knew he was advanced, but I didn’t realize that he was considered that advanced.  What’s next?  Long division at age 6?  College physics at age 9?

The site rated him this way:

  • Kindergarten: 100%
  • First Grade: 100%
  • Second Grade: 86%
  • Third Grade: 17%

The test didn’t include any algebra, which he’s been doing with his dad, or that would have further skewed his results.

Interestingly enough, the Princess came in at a grade of 1.2.  At age 3.  I’m reconsidering what schooling I need to be doing with her as well, as this was somewhat unexpected.  She’s not even kindergarten age yet for a 1.5 years and she’s already rated at grade 1. Good grief.

I should note: we parents facilitated the test.  We didn’t intervene (I did provide Lego manipulatives, but that is standard for us.)  We certainly didn’t try to skew the results because I need a true assessment.

So here’s the thing: now that I know what level he’s working at, I can accurately purchase textbooks.  Because I am NOT going to try to explain adding and subtracting fractions on my own.  Nope.  Not doing it.  I can use these results to help challenge him and to focus on weak areas like telling time.  He still doesn’t get the 5 minute increment idea.  Testing him – doing an assessment – gave me valuable knowledge that helps me teach him.

That’s how it should be.

Not tests that determine teacher’s salaries or school funding.  Not tests that leave kindergarteners in tears because they can’t handle the stress.  No tests that require weeks and weeks of teaching the subjects and answers so that students will do well.  No.

We need tests.  We don’t need anything attached to them.  Teachers need tests, and I argue that no one else – not even the government or school officials need the results.  Sure, turn them in a year later or whatever for data tracking, but don’t link them to anything of value.

The Engineer was determined to get the questions right – he kept asking if his answers were correct.  I kept telling him that wasn’t the point.  The point was to figure out what he knew so that we know what to work on next.  Nothing else.

And I’ve decided that I’ll order the basic 1st grade test.  If he aces it next year, that’s fine.  He has space to breathe the next year, and the year after that when he runs into a concept that he struggles with and doesn’t test well.  I’m not going to speed things up so that proof of progress is accelerated.  No, that kind of assessment is for our eyes only.  Not even his.

 

I think this post is especially funny after writing a few weeks ago about how giving up fighting over math paid off.  Clearly, child-led learning is working for us!

 

 

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