Testing, One, Two, Three

Written by contributor Amida of Journey Into Unschooling

It’s that time of the year — standardized testing. The process itself has been ever-changing for us.

When we first started, I really wanted my son tested. It meant he was doing fine and I wasn’t ruining him by keeping him out of school. But later I read that the tests — random questions written by a “committee,” had no real bearing on what the students know or have learned.

As part of a charter school, my kids must be tested each year. We’re encouraged to purchase test prep books months before the actual event, usually right after winter break. Looming overhead is the not-so-subtle threat of funding cuts, or even the extinction of the school entirely, if specific score results are not met.

This year, the test took place about 20 miles from home. We woke early, ate a hearty breakfast, packed lunches, and made our way through traffic–on one of the stormiest days of the year.

Once there the kids checked in, and the parents headed across the lawn to the empty building that was to be our shelter from the wet and cold for the next five hours.

While sipping hot tea we joked and exchanged stories about the ridiculousness of the whole experience. Our children hail from a whole spectrum of interests and abilities. Within different families, they learn different subjects at different times.

How can filling in a few bubbles ever measure the extent of their knowledge?

The answer? It can’t.

On a lighter note, one mom shared her secret weapon to help motivate her kids — the lunch bag.  She had packed a super lunch, filled with a whole assortment of her kids’ favorite foods. Another calmly reminded her children that the test represented only one inconvenience out of a whole year of not going through an actual school routine.

What struck me though, was that for all our joking and complaining, it wasn’t the test itself that brought on the kids’ dread. For the most part, it wasn’t even a concern.

They were just annoyed at having to be stuck in a classroom all day, when they could be doing something more worthwhile. I can’t blame them.

As my son has said on more than one occasion, it’s just another thing to get over and done with, so he can go do some real learning.

Do you have your kids tested? How do your children feel about the testing experience?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.

Comments

  1. My child was tested last month as part of our ALE with the public schools. I think it was more of a sit down and chat type of thing, but getting the paper saying she was one point under grade level, was like a punch in the gut.
    Paula’s latest post: Denim and Dirt BAK

  2. We test each year.

    Along with fulfilling our homeschooling obligation to the superintendent, I see one main benefit from standardized testing. Preparation for the SAT.

    Personally, I want my children to be ready for that huge and important test, which is a fact of life when it comes to getting into the college. The more experience they have with standardized tests, the less anxiety and stress they will have when it comes to the SAT.

    This may sound like all I think about are tests and the SAT…that is simply false. I’m just being realistic. I want my children to be prepared.

    My daughters have never expressed an opinion on taking their yearly test, so I suppose they just accept it as “something we do” in the spring. I like that. :-)

    • My son has taken the SAT and for him, it was quite the opposite — he felt the standardized tests did nothing to prepare him for the SAT, which came with its own set of anxiety. On the other hand, the SAT totally made the yearly test seem that much easier! He’s thinking content, of course, but you are right. I do think all those years of filling in the bubbles have at least given him ample practice on how to take a test.
      Amida’s latest post: You Wouldnt Want To Be – World War II Pilot

      • Very interesting. So your son felt that years of test practice did not prepare him for the SAT, as far as general anxiety is concerned? That would be something to for which to be careful. Perhaps nerves are just a part of the whole process as well.

        I am happy to hear, however, that when it came to content he felt prepared. :-) Thank you for sharing.

  3. This is my first year of home schooling, and we will be taking the TEST. I know that standardized tests are not perfect, they do not reflect all of what my child has learned through the year, however I agree with Paige that tests are a fact of life.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: Shepherd Me- O God

  4. We have to do state mandated testing every other year starting in 3rd grade. I figure my kids could meet the minimum requirement of being in the 14th or 17th percentile by just guessing and filling in random bubbles, so I never hype it up or try to prepare.

    The funny thing is– my kids think the tests are fun! My daughter loves filling out the forms and coloring in the bubbles. Go figure.

    • My son loves filling in the bubbles, too! Must be the novelty of it. The other parents and I did, however, remind our kids (only half jokingly) to be sure the bubble they filled in corresponded to the question they were answering. And of course, it wasn’t time to get creative with dot-to-dot art!
      Amida’s latest post: You Wouldnt Want To Be – World War II Pilot

  5. I administor the state achievement tests to our children once a year. We make a big deal out of testing week with special activities and special meals. Our kids LOVE the test. I am so happy that their lives are so peaceful that none of them experience test anxiety like I did as a child. (I attended school.)

  6. Thanks so much for writing this for us, Amida.

    I have to admit, it makes me very thankful that testing isn’t required where we live!
    Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Testing- One- Two- Three

    • Are you at all curious how your kids would test? I know I was that first time around. Even now, knowing what I know about how the tests are completely unrelated to the kids’ learning, I don’t mind them so much. Like Paige said, it’s just one of those things we do in the Spring.
      Amida’s latest post: You Wouldnt Want To Be – World War II Pilot

  7. We have to test here in MN and we use the CAT, which can be administered at home. The first year or two, it was fun to “play school” and see how the kids did. It was an ego boost for us all (the CAT tends to make all kids seem like super-geniuses IME, with many of our children’s scores in the “high school level” and even above for various subjects, starting when they were 7) but after that the novelty wore off. It gets expensive (this year we have three kids to test!) and I am already well aware of their strengths and weaknesses by now.

    I don’t really think that yearly bubble-testing prepares kids for a college entry test any more than sitting in desks for years prepares them for college. They can easily go to the SAT web page and answer a daily SAT practice question (which my kids actually find quite fun!) or take entire practice tests for free (details here: http://www.examiner.com/homeschooling-in-mankato/teens-can-hone-english-and-math-skills-with-the-sat-question-of-the-day) and there are many books and resources that will help them prepare for the SAT when the time comes.

    I think it’s fun to test at least once or twice, but it’s a shame when any outside authority dictates we have to use these artificial measures to evaluate our kids. But I can be a bit of an anti-authority rabble rouser. ;)
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: 20 Ways to put more joy in your homeschooling day

  8. Clarkmv says:

    I do not have kids but I was homeschooled all the way through till college. In my house we only tested when it was required by the school. My testing started in second grade. Due to my little sister’s disability we were privatly tested whenever possible. I hated the testing that took only a day or two from my year. I never liked being put on a scale like that when my true knowledge could not be measured on a bubble test. I must say that the testing experience was valuable when I had to start taking the ACT. I already had a idea of how to manage my time. I know that when I homeschool my kids they will be tested but I doubt I will do it every year.

  9. One of the reasons we pulled our oldest out of PS after 1st grade was because we thought it was ridiculous how much time they spent learning to fill in bubbles for the tests they’d have to take in 2nd grade. What a waste of time! We brought him home, and he never took another standardized test until he took the ACT at age 15. His score was scholarship level, and he ended up going to college at 17 after taking it once more and scoring even higher. My younger 2 kids will not test until the ACT.
    Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: One Sunny Day

  10. I’m glad to hear from the few of you who don’t test your children. My daughter is only 1, but my husband and I have been discussing homeschooling as an option for her education. We actually veered away from charter schools BECAUSE they require testing. Once a year wouldn’t be so bad, but in our neck of California the charter schools require almost 4 tests a year. Yuck.
    Sarah’s latest post: Columbia or Etsy bound

  11. My kids have loved testing. The first 6 years of homeschooling we tested with our homeschool group and they loved seeing their friends everyday for 3 days. We moved to a new state and now my husband does the testing. They still love it because they get to hang out with dad and he took them out for lunch when they were done.

    My husband and I do use the test scores to see if we are on the right track with our homeschooling. Once we actually used the scores to decide to change our curriculum and the change made a significant difference.

    Would we test if it wasn’t state mandated? Probably not, but we do appreciate this tool to help us.

  12. Heather says:

    We are part of a virtual public school and were encouraged to do MAP testing online. My 3rd grade daughter did fabulous. After the initial shock of a standardized test that gets progressively harder, eases up as the student gets problems wrong, and ultimately settles on a “score” wore off. My son “probably” (he has not been officially diagnosed) has ADHD and is a Kindergardener. He just took the test and I am so frustrated by it! He answered half the questions before the computer finished “reading” to him. We had major technical difficulties and I know he answered some wrong that he could have gotten right had he actually tried. Bad experience with the standardized test for us. It doesn’t show what he knows and is simply a “checked box” for the public school.

  13. My oldest homeschooler is coming up on her first standardized test next week. I have taken a laid-back approach to it with her, because I really do think it’s not a big deal. I’m also nearly sure she’ll pass because the bar is set so low.

    I don’t think it’s an evil to be avoided, nor something that means nothing. So, I hope she’s prepared and does her best. I am also not letting it become the center of our attention. It needs to be a healthy balance.

  14. tuxgirl says:

    I find this discussion interesting. I was not homeschooled (went to private school), but from the earliest years, even for the IQ test I had to take for admission to a private elementary school, my parents always treated tests (especially standardized tests) as a game.

    I’ll be honest… I enjoy standardized tests. I never dreaded them. I enjoyed filling the bubbles in, and seeing how well I could do. When I was in middle school, I took the SAT twice (by my choice) through some programs for students who did well on the regular standardized tests. Yes, I chose to spend a saturday filling in bubbles on a test. When I was in college, I took the LSAT, not because I wanted to go to law school, but because I wanted to see how well I could do on it. It was a game, and I wanted to see how I ranked.

    That said, I have never once studied for a standardized test. Honestly, when I went in to the LSAT in college, I didn’t even know what the sections of the test were. Would I have done better if I’d studied? I don’t know.

    The worst thing that can happen for me with a standardized test is for me to feel stressed out about it. If I feel like I *need* to do well on the test to succeed, then I tend to do worse. If I’m taking it to see how I did, to do the best I can, and to have some fun testing my knowledge, then I tend to do well.

    Please, don’t make this into an ordeal for your kids. Tests don’t have to be scary, stressful things. Make them fun!!! :)

    • tuxgirl says:

      Oh… one more thing… Taking the SAT early with no stress at all really makes it easier to take when it actually matters. :)

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