New to Homeschooling? A guide to Standardized Tests

New to Homeschooling? A Brief Overview of Standardized Tests

A standardized test is an exam given to large numbers of students at the same grade level. The scores make up the norms which make it possible to compare students. They typically check knowledge in language arts (spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, etc), reading comprehension, and math skills. This can give you a basic snapshot of how your child is doing compared with other students at their grade level. Not all states require annual testing, so be sure to reference laws for your state. In today’s post, I’ll be giving a brief overview of some of the more popular exams available.

Some Wise Advice

If your state requires these tests, obviously fulfill the law, but a test like this leaves out many things that make your student who they are. It doesn’t measure creativity, empathy, manners, or personality. There is so much more to your child than an exam score, don’t get hung up on results. 

Common Standardized Tests:

IOWA – Form E Test

The IOWA – Form E test ranges from Kindergarten to 12th grade and tests students in four main areas:

  • Language Skills
    • Vocabulary
    • Reading
    • Language (Grades K-2)
    • Capitalization (Grades 3-8)
    • Written Expression (Gr. 3-12)
    • Listening (Grades K-3)
    • Word Analysis (Gr. K-3)
    • Spelling (Grades 3-8)
    • Punctuation (Grades 3-8)
  • Mathematics
    • Math Concepts
    • Math Computation
  • Science
  • Social Studies

If you want to use this test you’ll need to have a BA or BS Degree in addition to getting approval to be an administrator. The site you order from will have more information on how to get the approval (See below in the “Links” section). This test is a highly recommended if you have a student who is sure to enter a four year college or university as it will reveal college and career readiness.

The levels of the exam take into account your student’s grade and when in the year you are testing; fall, spring or mid-year. The company you choose to purchase from will clearly mark which level you should give. The time it takes for your student to complete it varies. Levels 5 through 8 are untimed, but a good estimate is 2.5 hours for levels 5 and 6 and about 4 hours for levels 7 and 8. Tests for levels 9 through 17/18 are timed and you should expect 4 to 5 hours to complete it. Level 9 includes a couple optional subtests (Word Analysis and Listening), which would add an additional 20 and 25 minutes, respectively. For longer completion times, it’s a good idea to split up the testing over a few days.

New to Homeschooling? A brief guide to Standardized Testing

TerraNova/Cat6 Test

The TerraNova/CAT6 comes in a “Survey” or a “Complete Battery”. The complete battery test includes Science and Social studies, whereas the survey does not. Both are timed exams intended for students from Kindergarten to 12th grade assessing them in these subject areas:

  • Reading
  • Word Analysis
  • Vocabulary
  • Language Usage and Mechanics
  • Spelling
  • Mathematics Computation, Problem Solving and Concepts
  • Science (complete battery only)
  • Social Studies (complete battery only)

Each test level has a corresponding grade equivalent and on the answer sheet you indicate when the student is taking it; Fall, Winter or Spring. Testing can take 2 to 5.5 hours depending on grade level and subject.

I have used the TerraNova/Cat6 for over 10 years. Personally, I like the easy administration and my son does fairly well with the timed testing. However, if a parent prefers, there is an untimed version online.

Peabody Individual Achievement Test

The Peabody or The PIAT-R NU is a standardized, nationally norm-referenced achievement test.  It is an oral test that excels at keeping the experience casual for your child. The test is given by a proctor in your home, and while the exam itself isn’t timed, it takes 60-90 minutes to administer. This exam is available year-round and evaluates children Kindergarten through 12th grade in the following content areas:

  • General Information
  • Reading Recognition & Comprehension
  • Mathematics
  • Spelling

An interesting aspect to the Peabody is that the test is “non-bracketed”. This means questions aren’t restricted to the child’s grade level, but they become harder until he/she answers 5 of 7 consecutive questions incorrectly.  This process identifies their learning threshold.

I’ve only used this test once, but will likely return to it for my youngest two children during their elementary years.

Stanford 10-Online Test

The Stanford Achievement Test is a nationally-normed standardized test that has been around since 1922 and is considered to be one of the most rigorous achievement tests available. In 2018 they revised their norms to include a much larger number of private schools. As a result, students who previously scored relatively high could find they don’t score as high in the newer norms.

The online assessment is untime and covers students from 3rd through 12th grade in the following subject areas:

  • Word Study Skills (grades 3, 4, & Fall of grade 5 only)
  • Reading Skills/Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Mathematics
  • Language
  • Spelling
  • Social Studies
  • Science

This exam takes 3 to 5 hours depending on whether you are doing the complete or abbreviated test. One of the benefits to taking this online version is that you will receive results within 1-2 days as opposed to 2 weeks.

New to Homeschooling - fill in bubble testing

Brigance Special Education Testsis a highly recommended

While there are a couple of tests for special needs students from Brigance, today I am focusing on the Inventory of Early Development III. It consists of over 100 short assessments, covering a broad range of skills and behaviors, which gives you a complete picture of skill mastery. This test is intended for children who function at the developmental ages 0 through 7 years. The subject areas covered are:

  • Physical Development
  • Language Development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Daily Living
  • Social-Emotional Development

This is not a norm-referenced test; it is a criterion-referenced assessment, which means it measures a student’s performance on a specified set of skills over time. Please check with your school district to see if this exam would meet testing requirements for your state.

I use this with my non-verbal son who has Down Syndrome and Autism. One of my favorite features is the “Record Book”. It allows room to record up to six evaluations over time, which reveals progress towards goals and shows developmental strides made.

Conclusion:

So there you have it, the most common and widely accepted standardized tests available to homeschoolers. Any of these exams will usually fulfill a state’s testing requirement. That being said, be aware standardized tests are meant to show proof of progress. They are not pass/fail evaluations and do not entirely reflect your student. As I stated earlier, whether they are high or low, don’t get hung up on results. Be sure to take stock of the complete picture and remember your goals for homeschooling in the first place. 

I hope you found this post helpful. Be sure to check out the entire series “New to Homeschooling?” and stay tuned for more articles as I explore the most common questions from new homeschoolers.

Links:

Brigance Inventory of Early Development III (Check with HSLDA to see if they still rent the norm-referenced test to members)
Homeschool Testing Services
Seton Testing Services
Academic Excellence
BJU Testing

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