A Word About Standardized Tests

So let’s not begin the whole debate about whether standardized tests are good, okay?  Let’s instead agree here to begin with the premise that since 1) Colorado requires homeschooled children in grades 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 to take a nationally standardized test and 2) the SAT and ACT and MCAT or GRE or LSAT (no!) are hopefully in my children’s future, I make my children take standardized tests.  And sitting in a chair for hours on end, filling in little bubbles with a number 2 pencil (but not making any other marks on your test sheet!) and then forcing oneself to go back and check one’s answers is a learned skill.  So, we learn.

Here is a photo from 2006 of our lesson on molluscs. See all those gastropods eeking across the floor in their shells?

mollusc race

In the past, we’ve done the ITBS.  Every year, I get the results and think two things: 1) I am still so hung up on numbers it’s ridiculous.  And 2) You have to read those results so carefully.  When Sam has finally helped me to decipher them, the results have absolutely concurred with what I observe in my children.  (That is, that they are good readers, stink at capitalization and punctuation, and make stupid mistakes in math.)

This year, we gave them the CAT test.  We used Seton testing service, which was simple and fast with the results.  The CAT test provides its results slightly differently, and again when I saw them, I panicked.  What if my children didn’t do well?  Should I put them in school?  Am I a terrible teacher?  

Here they are collecting molluscs.
pond play 2

Again, I needed Sam to help me decipher the results without panic.  And what did they show?  That my kids stink at language mechanics, are good readers, and make silly mistakes in math, but overall are doing well.  Which I already knew. But in the process, we got a little more practice sitting in a chair until the timer dinged, filling in bubbles, answering only what the question asks and nothing else, and going back to recheck our calculations.  Okay wait, maybe we didn’t learn that.  But there’s always next year.


7 thoughts on “A Word About Standardized Tests

  1. Its funny that you posted this today, because I just had Linea sit down and do an online math test to make sure she learned what she was “supposed” to last year in Filipino school. I’ve learned a lot about how there are cultural differences in they way even math questions are worded. I also learned that LInea only knows the metric system. haha Anyway, she did fine with a bit of explanation and she made silly mistakes as well. It is a skill they need to learn, if only to be able to negotiate the system. Sigh.

  2. We just finished our week of testing too. I predict it will tell me that B is good at reading comp and big math ideas, but makes calculational errors, doesn’t remember math procedures, can’t spell and doesn’t get punctuation. The curve has been the same for the last 5 years, it just gets closer to the right hand side of the graph each year.

    Does making that speech about how it’s to simplify paperwork, jump through a hoop but it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know make his grade better each year? I kinda think so.

    Gotta love descriptive statistics. They only mean something in context, but they sound SO authoritative. Like blog clicking stats.

  3. Sotrue. We start our testing next week. We aren’t required to test here in Tennessee, but I still for the same reasons as you. It is in my children’s future to take the ACT to get into college, and dare I say–qualify for a scholarship-so test they do. I will start our testing next week. That ends our homeschooling year–except for mastering math facts, and continuing reading.
    I enjoy your blog. WOuld love to have you check out mine–i just started it.

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