In Missouri, homeschoolers are not required to do standardized testing; however, we are required to evaluate the student's work. Because of my education philosophy I don't grade the boys work. I have yet to find a single piece of research that supports grading and standardized testing to be beneficial to a students learning. All my homeschooling followers will understand this.
Yet, I still test the boys. This is our third year doing so. Why? I use it to find gaps and areas I may have forgotten about teaching. It also covers the evaluating part of the Missouri homeschool laws.
Another reason for testing is that one of the boys has terrible test anxiety. If he wants to go to college he will have to take tests, so this is practice to help relieve that anxiety. It gets a little better each year for him.
I keep a list of things that the boys are struggling with during the test. We talk and discuss during the test. Shh! Don't tell. ; ) By the end of the test I have a list of things we need to cover or review. Sometimes we ignore things that they don't know because it's not something worth learning. We even talk about agenda during the test because it's clear to see that the test has one.
I also go through the test and grade some of it myself before mailing it back. I want to see which ones they missed. My hope is to see that they are only missing things we haven't covered yet. If this is the case this means success in my opinion.
When the test results come, I compare them to my notes. I add and take off some items based on the percentage they got correct. It helps me to see what topics we need to cover in the future. I had planned physical science with a small amount of life science next year for Tyler. The test scores said he was lacking in life science and knew much about physical science. This helped me to change our science plans for next year.
I also compare the current years scores to the previous to make sure we are seeing growth.
This year we used the Iowa Test (from Seton Testing). The past two years we used the PASS Test. I changed test this year because the PASS only went up to 8th grade and I wanted to see what else was out there if we were to continue testing next year.
There was less silliness in the questions for the PASS test (agenda). There were several questions on the Iowa test that I didn't know the answer because I couldn't make sense out of the question. There seemed to be only one of those each year with the PASS test.
The PASS test was shorter, wasn't timed, and didn't cover all the topics the Iowa test did (these could be positives or negatives).
With the PASS test I had to shred the test afterwards and only mailed back the answer sheets, but with the Iowa test I had to mail all of it back (which was expensive).
I liked that the PASS test didn't compare by grade level but by skill level. We had to pre-test (which was easy) to determine which level to use for the test in each skill (meaning multiple tests). The Iowa test just went by grade level. This is actually a huge thing for the PASS test. The next year they send you the next level of the test. You don't pre-test again unless your student scored too high or too low on the last year's test. The PASS test would work well for a child who doesn't fit into typical school grades.
The scoring for each of the test where very different but I liked both of them. I think I may have liked the scoring of the Iowa test more because it broke down the subjects into many areas and providing scores on each of those. I wrote down "punctuation" for one of the boys on our list of things that we needed to work on. When the test scores came I was able to see that he just needed to work on commas, apostrophes, and quotes. He did fine on correct end marks. This was helpful in narrowing down our gaps. This could have been done while I "graded" the test but the IOWA test was too long to go over all of it.
The Iowa test says the score will come in 10 days by email after the test is received back. I mailed it back on a Friday and got the scores the following Friday. The PASS test scores are mailed to you. They say "typically within two weeks" on their website. One year we got it back in under that time and one year it took 5 weeks.
One thing that the testing should not be used for is comparing children against their peers. It is fundamentally wrong to compare children by age and skill level. If you went to public school it is very hard to get this way of thinking out of your mind. This must be avoided so that testing can be a tool that is a servant and not a master.
This is how and why we use standardized testing. Also, a short review of the tests we have used. I'm happy to answer questions!