Wow. This is a tough topic. For every ten homeschooling families you meet, I bet you will find fifteen different opinions about the touchy subject of testing. Why fifteen? I have a love-hate relationship with standardized testing, vacillating between two different extremes. My husband thinks differently about standardized testing then I do. I am sure we are not the only spouses with differing opinions! All that being said, we are testing our oldest two children this year with a fairly elaborate standardized test. Why? In order to answer that question I will first have to explain which sides of the fence we are on.
On the one hand, I’m not a big fan of the big test. It is my opinion and experience that school teachers often spend weeks “teaching to the test” in ways that do not help the student learn anything besides how to pass the test. I have this opinion because even my school-teacher family members and friends admit to this practice. It is also safe to say that many schools bend the rules while giving the test. Learning disabled students are given much leeway, times are fudged, etc.
I have also had teachers admit these things to me. The tests themselves have come under much scrutiny because they are written to favor a certain gender, and possibly even a certain sub-culture. Not to mention, some students just do not test very well no matter how well-educated they have been. When I discussed standardized testing with my sister who is an assistant principal at a fairly large Christian school, her response went something like this: Why do you give them a standardized test? It doesn’t actually tell you anything about what they know…
On the other hand, in our home routine standardized testing does have some value. If you want a broad comparison of your children and those in public school standardized testing will give you a broad-brush comparison. How do they measure up against their age-segregated peers? Testing also gives us an idea of areas where we excel and areas that need work as we plan the coming year and evaluate our curriculum.
Curiously, when standardized testing was required in our state (Virginia) I was quite aggravated about the requirement and used the least comprehensive test I could find (basic California Achievement Test) to meet the requirement. Now that we have moved to a state where no one will ever see our test scores and they are not required (California) I am giving my children a more comprehensive test (Stanford).
This reveals that at least part of my aversion to testing has to do with my aversion to public school oversight. If they can’t even produce a reasonable percentage of literate, well-educated students why do they have any business challenging my abilities?
It all comes back to that love-hate relationship. In our family we have chosen to test this year in the absence of a legal requirement because certain members of my family need that baseline reassurance that what we are doing works.