Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mondays Our Way:Test Anxiety


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.

Continuing on....

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.


blueviolet said...

I've never thought about not participating in the standardized testing. I've always found it an annoyance and a farce but that's as far as I've gone. This is really interesting!

Jenny said...

Here in MO our attendance age is 7. It's wonderful. People are so shocked to find that out!

Now, the one thing we are tying to figure out is if we need to keep records as soon as the child is 7 or if it's the school year after the child turns 7. My nephew will be 7 in January.

We also don't have to do any testing! Seriously, I think standardized testing is goofy. So many kids are bad at tests and it creates unnecessary anxiety.

Scrappy Girl said...

We homeschooled for 3 years...loved it. I totally understand the laws thing. The other day my daughter cracked me up. One thing she remembers about homeschool is when strangers would ask her "Who is the President?" to "test" her was hilarious!

Samantha said...

I was homeschooled from 8th grade until I graduated. We attended a co-op though that met twice a week, and it was kind of like going to school for us. We did our standardized tests with them. I hate tests though. I get nervous, my mind stops working, and fail them. When I went to college I had to take an Old Testament class. I could tell you everything I learned in that class, but when came time for the tests...I was making 15's and 30's on them! I asked the teacher if I could have a verbal test instead of a written test, because I would do better that way.

I find tests very unfair, because some people, like me, just can't take them. It doesn't us dumber than everyone else, we just have a different way of needing to be tested.

The Blonde Duck said...

I hate standarized testing. I didn't know there was a way to avoid it!

The Redhead Riter said...

The entire reason I live in the area I live is for my daughter's school. It is one of the aopportunities I could give her that would make a huge impact on her life.

Stopping by from SITS and thought I would say Hi!

Muthering Heights and Other Senseless Sensibility said...

Hmmm, that's interesting information. I was sort of wondering about all that...

Robynn's Ravings said...

Very good info here. Clear and concise. I, too, find HSLDA to be an invaluable resource though we don't always share all the same ideas. We have been with them since the beginning.

I tested Bo most years - just for a paper to put in the face of all the naysayers - and it worked. TWM I have only tested once. (You get more confident after the first one.) I will test him again next year just to get him ready (and past the jitters) for the PSAT and then SAT. These are required for the college we will be applying to for scholarship money. That's a big plus. Bo got in on a full-ride four years and that has been a HUGE blessing to us financially but it's not everyone's cup of tea. I think, once again, it should be up to the parents to decide.

I asked her in 9th grade if this was what SHE wanted. It was, so then we worked our tails off. Thankfully, it paid off by God's grace. I think TWM will be on the same track but the jury is still out. They are different children! Yay! Love 'em both to pieces!

missy said...

oh my gosh.......that is alot of stuff to keep track of!!!!!

MrsM said...

blueviolet-Always glad to provide some food for thought~thanks for stopping by!

Jenny-Have you tried looking it up on HSLDA? You're lukcy you don't have to test =)

Scrappy Girl-Wow. Some people just don't understand!

Samantha-Absolutely! That is one of the 10,000 reasons that I don't agree with standardized testing.

The Blonde Duck-There can be, in some states, if you homeschool!

The Redhead Riter-I'm glad to see you're back again =) It's always good to see one more parent with the best educational opportunities on their mind!

Muthering Heights-I am, occasionally, a FONT of information. Mostly not. But sometimes I'll surprise you. Are you considering homeschooling?

Robynn's Ravings-Oh I definitely don't agree with the HSLDA on everything. I'd say maybe HALF. Maybe. But they're a great starting point for research! We're going to let the kidlets decide individually if they want to test outside of our state's requirements (if they want to do advanced tests, or if they want to do SATs, ACTs, etc)....we'll see what they decide!

Missy-Sometimes-but I think it's definitely worth it!