A gal I met this week asked me about what test I use to assess my daughters reading levels. I use a test called the QRI (2nd ed.). I was taught how to use this test and interpret it in my classes for my master's degree in education. It tests reading (phonics and sight words), reading comprehension, and background knowledge. I wouldn't recommend this test to homeschooling parents. I was taught how to use this test. I had instructors walk me through it and show me how to use it. I am very thankful for this instruction.
This morning I set out to see if I could find a test online that is available to homeschoolers. I found that Sonlight has a page listing several academic assessments for students. Here is the page: http://www.sonlight.com/placement-tests.html
On this page, there are reading vocabulary and comprehension assessments. I took a look at the Let's Go Learn test and it covers all of the language arts areas that I test my girls for. It costs $20 for 1 test, but that seems reasonable to me for what it covers.
What would you use this testing for?
These are assessment tests. They are different than standardized tests.
I use assessment tests to make sure my kids are on track with their reading skills. Because I use a math curriculum that is for public schools, I feel comfortable that my children are on grade level if they are getting 85% plus right. In these early grades, I'm not concerned that they get 100% or that I give them an "A" on their papers. But, they do love writing 100% on their papers when they get everything right! When I was considering using Horizons, I used the Horizons assessment to help me place Autumn. It was helpful. I didn't go with Horizons as my choice, but I'm glad to have used the test.
In my opinion, grades PK-3 are all about helping our children learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. They need strong foundations. Reading and writing include phonics, reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, writing and handwriting. The other goal I have for my kids during elementary school is to help them build their background knowledge. In order to remember new information, we connect it to other information we have in our brains. Disconnected knowledge doesn't stick for very long. So, as teachers we help give our students building blocks and help them learn how to make connections. We teach them to think about how what they are learning relates to what they've learned before. They make connections to their own thoughts and feelings, to what they've read about, and to what they already know about the world.
But, I think the important thing to ask what your purpose is in giving assessements. When my children are in 8th grade and then again in 12th, I want to know that my children are on an equal footing with children who have gone to school. My hope is that my children will go to college. My oldest daughter is pretty academic--leaning towards creative and language arts. My second daughter is more math oriented. She is on grade level with her reading.
But, the primary reason I assess my children is to show my husband that our children are on track. You see, I'm a bit informal with our daily schedule. Not casual, but informal. I don't abandon self discipline, but we tend to get started, well, when we get started. Sometimes that's 8:30 a.m. and sometimes it's 9 a.m. and sometimes even 9:30 a.m. My husband has his concerns about this. So, I show him our assessments as an indication that the kids and me are on track. I do realize that God is easing me into more and more discipline about our days when it comes to homeschooling and the work load increases--for the kids and for me.
Standardized testing is different than assessments for reading, writing, and math. They are more specific and cover different subjects. There are two common tests that Homeschoolers take. The ITBS (Iowa tests) and the Stanford 10 (formerly 9). Bob Jones offers a program so that parents can apply to become proctors. They also will sell you the tests, which you return to them for scoring. http://www.bjupress.com/testing/forms.php
I found this website with a general description and comparison of the tests available:
Here's another page with some helpful information:
In our state, we are not required to administer standardized tests to our children. So, I have opted out of the free service available to us via our county school system. I have grown more and more concerned about the emphasis put on standardized testing over the past 10 years. With standardized tests, we hold all students accountable to the same standards along the same timeline. A friend of mine was over visiting yesterday and she described to me how the students and parents act during testing week at her daughter's elementary school. She described how stressed and pressured the kids and parents feel. She was shocked when she saw it and I honestly was shocked to hear about it. That is what I want to stay away from.
But, there is some good that can come of taking standardized tests. I did a little research and found these two pages that gave me some food for thought:
The truth is that our children will have to take all sorts of standardized tests in the course of their lifetime. If we help them learn to take them and not stress out about such tests, we will be giving them a valuable skill that they will need over and over. Test taking is a part of life.
As homeschoolers, we have the blessing of not having to put pressure on our kids about tests. We can teach them that the goal of tests is not to show what you don't know--but what you do.
But, that's just my two cents...