Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Homeschool Testing

One of my least favorite parts about homeschooling through a charter is doing state testing. We got Henry's results today so I thought I'd talk about it a little bit for my homeschool post this month.

I always hated state testing growing up. I got nervous, and I never did exceptionally well. I was pretty disappointed when I learned it would be part of homeschooling Henry if we wanted to use the charter since I had never had a great experience with it. But now, two times a year, September, and January or February (the testing window was recently moved up) Henry has to sit for testing.

The first test he took for first grade was done while I met with his educational specialist. The last three he has done I've administered at home. It's great because we can test over a period of about four or five weeks if we want, he can stop for a snack or restroom break, and we can do a little bit a day if we want. It's horrible because I have to deal with all the whining and frustration when he doesn't know something, and wants me to help when I can't.

This is the first time we've spread out the testing over more than a couple of days. I thought we would give it a try to see if it lessened the frustration and whining on Henry's part. It was somewhat successful. I didn't know the test would 'spoil' itself if it was started, and not finished within 22 days. We got to about 40 percent done with his language arts testing, went back to work on it some more, and it was gone. Thankfully, he remembered most of what he had already read, and redoing the first chunk wasn't as bad as I feared.

It's interesting to be able to see the test questions, and answer options. It reinforces by belief that standardized tests are not very helpful for finding out what a kid knows. Just one example: the literature comprehension passages were on the Trojan horse, and sirens. Henry already knew about both of those stories so he didn't really even have to read them to answer the questions. Subsequently his 'comprehension of literary texts' score is skewed really high, because while his auditory comprehension is really high, he sometimes needs to go over written passages more than once to understand them. I know if he had had to actually read that text he wouldn't have scored the same.

Then we come to math, which he is much more natural at than language arts, and he tested right at level on 'algebraic thinking' because the questions used specific jargon that I hadn't taught him because we don't learn math with a test in mind. It's frustrating because I can see how a teacher overwhelmed with so many students might have to go by placement results in tests, and Henry would end up in a group too low for math, and too high for language arts.

The moral of the story is, I'm glad that even though Henry has to test, I'll never have to use that as my end all, be all for what I should teach him. I have a way better understanding of what he does, and doesn't know because I am teaching him, and seeing all his work. It's also nice that I can tell him the tests are not the most important indication of his abilities, and he doesn't have to compare with other kids in his class, and somehow think he is better or worse than them. I'd be lying if I said I don't care about what his results are, but homeschooling helps me not to dwell on them, and to focus on the most important thing at hand, which is actually an individual, and his individual development, and growth.

1 comment:

Maren said...

Your analysis is fascinating. I had never thought about how the state test scores could skew like that. I love how well you know Henry's strengths and his progress. You're a good example!