Sunday, April 18, 2010

Testing, testing, 1 . . . 2. . . 3. . .

Many schools of thought float in the world of education. Some say that testing is essential to evaluate properly. Others say that testing does not show a true evaluation of what a child has learned. I have a learned a little bit from both schools.

We have chosen to test our kids yearly by using achievement tests taken at a cooperating school. In doing this, my kids' strengths and weaknesses are brought to light. Understanding that testing needs to be taken with a grain of salt, we look at the whole picture and do not make educational decisions based solely on a test result. However, it is extremely helpful to compare from year to year. We have also been able to compare achievement with scholastic ability by use of another testing tool (OLSAT).

There are holes in testing. You will never find a perfect tool that tests directly from what your child has been learning. It would be impossible, as there are so many curriculums available. Testing does take away from teaching time, and it puts your children in a position of comparison to others their age. However, our kids have adapted well and have enjoyed being in the classroom with their peers for the week of testing. (We have a good relationship with the school. The kids are in the traditional classroom for the week. The test results are then sent to me.)

We test regularly at home, but frequently take the time to reteach if a concept needs more time. Testing is often an evaluation of me: how well have I communicated or led my child in learning. Being at home does eliminate testing pressures that may be more evident in the traditional classroom. For one, the time factor is removed. Distractions may be more limited, and a child usually feels more comfortable in their home. That said, my kids have also been prepared well to test in a traditional classroom. (As they enter junior high, they begin taking classes part time in a Christian school.)

I don't believe that many of us love to face a test. Yet, all through life, we are tested. Maybe not on paper or within a 45 minute period. However, we are faced with decisions and tests that we need to pass. Sometimes we get to retest, but often the grade stands and we have to go on. I am challenged to prepare my kids for not only the pencil and paper test but also the tests and pop quizzes that will enter routinely through their life.

What do you think about testing? How has it been used effectively in your home? Are there ways you have overcome the downfalls of testing? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Tammie said...

i have one child whom we home educated. we gave her standardized tests from time to time. they pretty much confirmed what we already knew. consequently, when we returned to the States from overseas, we spent a year remediating (i.e. she essentially repeated 4th grade). her english reading and spelling skills were poor, but she was bilingual. she is dyslexic, which affects her math skills horribly, so we drilled and drilled and drilled math facts--we both cried some days. however, at the end of the year, she did well. then when she was on the brink of 7th grade, the testing indicated that she was probably ready for 9th grade work in everything but mathematics. she took the SAT when she was sixteen, and tested in the 99 percentile in english skills, over 90 in social science and science, and, uh, a little below 50th percentile in mathematics. :) so i figured that in addition to her transcripts, she really had probably done enough to warrant her graduating early.

i tried to prepare her for the tests by letting her know there would certainly be material she did not know, because it wasn't the kind of test to see if she had learned the material, but to see how much she knew even above her grade level. she LOVED the testing, believe it or not. she liked the challenge of figuring out as much as possible.

Sandy said...

Thank you Tammie for your comments. It is so wise to prepare a child that he/she will not know it all. I think the kids tend to get overwhelmed with a test that presents material they have never seen. It sounds like your daughter appreciated the challenge.

Jodi said...

At first, I balked at testing, until I realized that it could give me some more insight as to what direction I need to go in with my kids' education. I also find that it is a good test of how I'm doing as their teacher. This is the first year that my oldest hasn't tested, and I have to say, I really would have liked to see all of mine test this year. I will definitely be setting up some kind of testing for them next year, even if it is just at home.