The Benefits of Standardized Testing
As a special education teacher in the public school system, the time of year I dreaded the most was testing time! All the teachers and students were put under a ton of pressure to pass their end of grade tests. Students with different learning disabilities were forced to sit for hours each day taking tests that were way too difficult for them. The only information we really received from struggling students was how good of a guesser they were.
I had been trained that the purpose of assessments were to measure progress, determine what students needed to work on, and how they learned. Unfortunately, this wasn’t what I saw happening. Standardized Testing has bad implications for many people, but that’s because often it’s not being used the way it should!
When I started homeschooling I knew that I would be required to test my kids. (I live in NC where standardized testing is required each year) However, I knew that the way testing is often used in many schools, did not have to reflect the way I wanted to use it in my homeschool. My husband and I decided we want to test our kids. But, not just to fulfill a requirement. We would choose test because it is a very helpful beneficial tool in our homeschool!
I love to encourage and use any knowledge and experience I have to help and encourage families in the education of their children. In the last few years I have learned so much and had wonderful experiences with testing. Today, I want to share how we use standardized testing and what it provides our family.
Testing with The Woodcock-Johnson IV and SMART
Last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to join the SMART (Smoky Mountain Academic Resources and Training) Team. By, doing this, I received training to administer the Woodcock-Johnson IV Tests of Achievement. In previous years I had administered the CAT (California Achievement Test) online to my kids as we started homeschooling. This was one of the least expensive options for testing I found and it worked fine for my purposes then. My kids got some testing experience and I got a little information about their academic levels.
However, after learning about and experiencing using the Woodcock Johnson, I discovered, how much easier and beneficial standardized testing can be!
What is the Woodcock-Johnson IV Test of Achievement?
The Basic Woodcock-Johnson we administer with SMART consists of 10 sub-tests and measures reading, math, and writing in a variety of ways. This gives you a very clear picture of what your child’s academic working levels are.
A trained and licensed tester must administer the Woodcock-Johnson IV. At SMART, all of the testers have worked in education for many years, and also have homeschooling knowledge and experience. We take time to administer the Woodcock-Johnson to your child in a one-on-one setting. This takes the pressure off of you to test your own kids, and gives you an outside perspective. Also, we can usually complete their testing in one, two to three hour session. This is much less time than many other standardized tests take!
Who is the Woodcock-Johnson IV Test For?
This test is great for all kids whether they are working below or above expected grade level. It, also, very clearly shows you your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Your child will be tested with material that is just right for them. The test will start off easy for them, and gradually get harder. The test ends when the content gets too difficult. Your kids won’t be sitting answering questions that are way to easy or way to hard for them! (This happens so often with End-of-Grade tests or Standardized test that test a a specific grade level). Also, the Woodcock-Johnson is an excellent option to gather information if you child is struggling or you have specific concerns. After administering this test we can often tell if your child has tendencies (we do not diagnose) towards a learning disability or difficulty in certain areas.
What I love about working with SMART!
My favorite part of working with SMART is that we, as test administrators, take time to immediately score and give feedback to you about how your child scored. With many standardized tests parents are handed score reports that really don’t mean anything to them! We always take time to help you understand their scores. We are also able to give ideas and suggestions, if needed, for what may help you as you continue to educate your child. The comprehensive score reports with the Woodcock-Johnson IV also give you interventions and teaching suggestions to help you as you continue homeschooling!
The test can be administered each year, (we have multiple forms that we alternate) so that we show you your child’s progress by comparing your previous years scores in each area.
I love that I get to help support families in the education of their children! I have enjoyed working with students and parents to give feedback and help find strategies that will help their kids learn!
So Why Test? What does Standardized Testing Really provide your Family?
1. A Picture of Your Child’s working Academic Levels
A good standardized test (as described above with the Woodcock-Johsnon) will give you a working level of your kids academic ability in each area. When you know clearly what level your child is working at you know what you want them to improve. You will also get good information about what and how you should be teaching them and be able to set clear goals for their education.
2. Our Kids Learn How to Take Tests without Being Stressed.
So many kids and adults suffer from test anxiety. The pressure that is put on us to pass or fail has trained us to be nervous about testing. However, taking tests will continue to be a part of our lives. If your kids want to go to college they will need to take an ACT or SAT. There will be placement tests for classes, certification tests for different jobs or trades, and even a driver’s license test. We get to teach our kids, by giving them good testing experiences now, that a test is simply their chance to show what they know.
All we ask of them is that they try their best, just like they should in everything they do. My kids, and all of the other kids I have tested, enjoy their testing sessions! They are excited to show me, and their parents how well they can do! They are learning to take tests, and handle this little bit of pressure now, so that they will be able to handle the bigger tests in the future.
3. A Chance for our Kids to Show Off What They Have Learned
When our kids take dance, cheer, karate, music lessons, or participate in other team sports they have tournaments, recitals, and/or competitions to show off what they have learned. What our kids are learning academically is important. A Standardized Test at some point at the beginning, middle or end of a school year, gives our kids a chance to show off what they have worked hard on in school, and all they have learned! They should have a chance to be proud of what they have accomplished in school.
4. You Receive Information About what Your Kids Need to Work on More.
I always tell my kids before they test, to just do their best for me, because it helps me know what I need to teach them. I tell them if you don’t know something or its too hard, then it probably just means that they haven’t learned it yet, and that’s okay. Often after standardized testing, parents, including me, have seen areas that their kids may be struggling in. For Example, if your child reads well, but scores lower than you expected on reading comprehension, then we see our kids may not be fully understanding the words they are reading. We then know we should shift our focus to teaching more reading comprehension strategies. We also know we should work on building vocabulary to increase what our kids are understanding.
I love using the Woodcock Johnson, because instead of just one reading score, we get separate scores for reading word and sentence fluency, comprehension, and letter/word identification. So if you child is struggling in an area you can usually pinpoint exactly what the problem is! The test works the same for writing and math skills! You can see exactly where your kids are excelling and what you may need to work on in each area.
Completing a standardized test each year with my kids provides me with some accountability for what I am teaching them. We take our kids’ education seriously. As a homeschool mom, I sometimes worry if I’m teaching or challenging them enough, or the doing right things. Giving them an appropriate standardized test each year gives us evidence that we are making progress. We can see clearly that our kids are learning! Sometimes we may see our kids aren’t making as much progress as we think they are. Then we know we need to make changes, and figure out how we should teach in a way that is best for our family.
Find what works for You!
I encourage you to find a way to administer a standardized test to your kids that works for your family. Yes all standardized tests cost money and take some time. However, we have seen that it is a valuable investment into our kids education.
Not just because it fulfills a state requirement, but because it helps us better educate our children. Even if you aren’t homeschooling, but have questions or concerns about where your child is working academically, a standardized test like the Woodcock-Johnson just may give you the answers you are looking for! If you are new to or considering homeschooling the Woodcock-Johnson Test is an excellent way to find out more about what your child knows, and where to start. I encourage you to find a tester in your area and ask about what services they offer!
SMART has testers in many locations across NC. So, if you are local and are interested in learning more or scheduling a testing session with me or one of the other amazing SMART associates, please head over to the SMART website and contact us! You are also welcome to contact me directly by at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of our SMART associates are able to travel to test groups of students, so please contact us if you are interested in scheduling sessions!
Have a Wonderful, Blessed Homeschool Day!