Thursday, May 10, 2012

Post Testing Post...Just who or what are we testing?

Every year for the past 6 years, my boys have taken the Stanford Achievement Tests. Normally, it takes 6-8 weeks to receive the results back. This long turn around time creates a host of problems. My motives for testing my children are many, but the most important motive is planning the future. Waiting until the end of June to choose the next year's curriculum doesn't give me enough time. I miss the convention season to buy in a hands on setting, I miss the used curriculum sale and I have less time to read and plan for the next year.

Another problem it creates is the timing of when I submit the tests to our local school system. They were not pleased getting them the last week in June or the first week of July. They have their vacations to condsider.

This year things changed. BJU implemented a policy of posting their test results online. We had the results in two weeks. Of course I'm thrilled, but the OCD nature in me was disappointed that I don't have the exact form we have received every year. I won't have the experience of holding the previous test results and this year's results up to the window to see the changes in the bar graphs. I will actually have to interpret the data.

Here's how I analyze the results: I compare the scores from each year and see if there was a subject that has has a radical movement in either direction. I decide after that based on what materials we were using where I should place the blame or the credit. If they improved significantly, I pat myself on the back and say well done. If they experience a drop, I blame the publisher, the child or the alignment of the stars. Just kidding, Terri G. has never believed in such nonsense. I do decide if a change needs to be made.

This year, I was holding my breath on Random. I, against all that I hold true in my homeschooling philosophies, did what I thought I would never do: I enrolled him in Monarch, which is computer based online. I was convinced that nothing would stick. I didn't believe him when he said the load was more than he expected. I excused it with my favorite line. What did you expect in high school? Most high schoolers have 3 hours of homework each night. I wasn't confident he would learn anything. I knew he needed something different.

I was wrong. He rocked in geography, his science scores were great and his math improved. I decided he will be doing more reading this summer. Ninth grade Monarch did not include enough good literature for my taste. Sadly, Random just isn't the kid who picks up classics for the fun of it. They must be assigned.

Paperboy, on the other hand, is caught red-handed reading much more. His scores reflect it. My goal of raising a reader has been met.

I remember my reactions to their test scores in the past.
How could you do so poorly in .................? I invested so many hours teaching this to you. I had recieved poor marks on my teaching. I took things personal. I decided there was a reason it was called Easy.........It was easy to forget. 
I wondered how a 5th grader could score post high school on something one year and on grade level the next. I decided he must not have lined up his bubble sheets correctly. 
I knew I could work really hard and help him bring up his spelling. It always went up, but just one grade level each year, just like him. When he shows up to wire a house, will they ask him how to spell superfluous? I think not, but he will know what it means thanks to his love for reading.
I reminded myself that successful test takers were not necessarily good students or citizens for that matter. I got over the homeschool mother test anxiety. 
This morning, I was not surprised, but a little disappointed. Then I moved on with our day. When the Gman came home and we went over the tests, I saw them with new eyes. He was pleased. All is well. The principal has spoken.

Next year will have some changes: The One Year Adventure Novel will replace English on the computer. The boys will work together again on a few things. Paperboy will pick up a class online and his electrical work experience will increase. Random will have less time in front of the screen and more time with a pencil in his hand. It's been a great year. And now much to their dismay, they can start right away on the areas that weren't in the 90th percentile. Oh what a blessing it is to get the results so quickly.

How about you, do you suffer from homeschool mom test anxiety? Do you even test your children? I posted my dilemma this year in March about testing. I was on the fence,but I am glad we did.

My advice about the test anxiety spoken in a Boston accent.


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1 comment:

Linda said...

I appreciate your blog title, Accidentally homeschooling, that is how we came to be homeschoolers, too, accidentally! I just wanted to say that to this point we do not participate in standardized tests. I'm comfident that our online curriculum,Time4Learning is providing an exceptional education for my daughter. My decision to not participate in standardized testing may change as my daughter approaches high school, by necessity, because our curriculum will have to change. I'm going to check out the online curriculum you mentioned since we will be looking for something to pick up after 8th grade. Thanks for the info!