Sunday, July 12, 2009
There, I said it.
Unschooling brings along a lot of questions about testing. From the public school side, people tend to be skeptical, wanting kids to be tested to "prove that they are really being educated". From the unschooling side (which tends to differ from traditional homeschooling on the subject of test administration) the thought of the government handing our children a standardized test leaves a foul taste in our mouths.
The good news is that less than 50% of states require standardized testing for homeschooled students. The bad news is that most people cannot afford to move just to avoid standardized tests if their state requires them. The worst news is that in many states with standardized testing laws there are provisions which would legally force you to send your child to public school should they not meet testing requirements. I could go on for hours-nay, DAYS-about what a flagrant violation of personal liberty that is, but I'll limit it to just the one extra large bolded comment.
So what do you do if you're looking down the line to forced standardized testing with potentially infuriating consequences? If your kids have yet to enter the public school system you can always remember to forget to register them with the school district-but if your children were already in the system, or your state has criminal penalties for such action, that's probably not a good idea. My recommendation?
Obey your state's homeschooling laws. TO. THE. LETTER. in the letter, and not in the spirit. (Find your states exact law, and a legal interpretation of it, courtesy of HSLDA)
The laws regarding schooling are often not what you would expect. For instance, did you know that the legal age of compulsory education is usually NOT five? In fact, only 11 states require that 5 year olds be in school, and 2 of those 11 allow exceptions. Within the US, compulsory schooling is required, on average, beginning at age 7. (Check HERE to see your state's compulsory schooling age.)
Also, did you know that nearly half of the states that require testing require it at certain grade levels as opposed to yearly or at certain times (find an overview of testing requirements by state HERE)? And who decides what "grade" your homeschooled child is in?
That's right, you do.
Another thing to look into-while many school districts "require" you to turn in your child's standardized test scores, the law often only requires that you keep records available upon written request.
Let me be sure to clarify-I'm not suggesting that you do anything illegal, and I'm not suggesting that you don't educate your child. I do suggest, however, that parents opposed to standardized testing who live in mandatory testing states arm themselves with very specific legal knowledge regarding state requirements and then work within those requirements in a way that best suits their family.
After all, personalized education in the best interest of your child is what homeschooling is all about.