Be sure to check out the other posts in the How To Homeschool For Free series too!
The end of the school year is coming up for most of us. It is the time when we look back at the year and evaluate what we have done. How do you assess your students? Do you observe and take notes, keep a portfolio, or something else? There are different ways to assess as well as different types of testing.
A standardized test is a norm-referenced test, like Iowa Basic Skills, that will identify learning problems and gaps in general knowledge.
Criterion-referenced tests are designed for public schools. It is possible that they will include questions that deal with evolution as fact as well as other terms that Christians might find irrelevant or offensive. They are still useful tools. You can be prepared by pre-screening the content.
Evaluation and assessment for all levels can also be done through written assignments, portfolio goals & review, lapbook collections, or any method that gathers work samples over a period of time. These last choices are less stressful options for the student and the parents, as a general rule. They show progress and completed projects.
There are numerous free testing tools available online. Consider each option along with the personality of each child. Some children are proficient learners, yet terrible test takers. They might be able to do well orally, rather than on paper or on the computer. If you do opt for a test that gives scores, be sure understand that not all scores are accurate, especially if you use a public school criterion-referenced test. I have used them in the past, just to see what areas might have gaps. Tests are useful tools, but they are not the final say in grade level by any means. And PLEASE know that low test score does not mean you are an awful teacher! This is not a personal grade for you, but rather a tool for finding gaps in learning.
EdInformatics provides a list of states that have assessments and benchmark test available online. Some are printable, while some are interactive. All states do not test the same things at the same grade levels. This page has resources for grades K-12.
Internet4Classrooms has a simple way to find an assessment to meet your needs. When you arrive on the page linked here, you might be asked to provide info. It’s optional. I only indicated that I was a homeschool parent, but I did not provide my name. That was acceptable, so I moved on to the main information. You simply click on the grade level or subject you are interested in testing. There is a wide variety of tests available here for printing as well.
Academic Benchmarks will give you the guidelines for your state and what is tested at each grade level. You might find things such as what is the Core Curriculum, Intended Learning Outcomes, as well as Grade Level articulations.
Secondary and College Testing
If you want to give the SAT a preview before you send your child off to take it “for real,” visit Test Prep Preview or Test Prep Practice. Both of these websites offer free testing samples, some close to full length. It it not limited to SAT and GED. The available tests include GRE, Vocational Exams, Law School LSAT, and many, many more.
Curriculum Placement Tests
Curriculum Placement Tests are another way to find gaps in your homeschool academics. Several curriculum companies offer free diagnostic and testing tools for your use. Even if you have to register to take the test, you are not obligated to buy the curriculum. I have used several of these tests over the years to expose my kids to the different terminology used in the various subjects. Sometimes when you stick with the same curriculum (which is great!) students might have a hard time answering questions that are worded a bit differently in another kind of setting. Talking about how there are different words for the same thing can be very helpful.
Sonlight provides Horizons Math readiness tests. You can go directly to Alpha Omega, which is the publisher’s website for Horizons, but you will have to register. If you want to skip that and just take the test, go through Sonlight. They also have tests for Teaching Textbooks, Singapore Math, and Saxon. Once you have your student take the test, look at the results to see where gaps are and do some reviewing!
Alpha Omega Homeschool does ask you to register for the online diagnostic test. I have used it and found it to be a useful tool for finding what my kids haven’t learned yet. It is for grades 3 and up.
Math Mammoth tests are meant to be taken at the end of the school year to test for mastery. They will also work as general math diagnostic tests. The tests group the questions by topic, so it is easy to find where the gaps are.
If you are still with me and wondering why people would test if it is not required, I often tell my kids that I’m having them take a test so I know what else I need to teach them. That takes the pressure off when they come to an unknown topic. I tell them to leave everything blank that they haven’t learned yet. If they leave a lot blank on things that I know they have learned, I will return the test with a reminder of when we learned that topic and sometimes they will have that “light bulb moment!”