Why Not Use Standardized Tests As Teaching Tools?
Teaching tools are scattered all over the internet: spelling word lists, math squares, and even blank book report templates. Search for an item, print it off, and hand it to your homeschool child to complete, right? Well…right and wrong.
- Right – sometimes you need a “ready-made” teaching tool to accomplish a task
- Wrong – before you can decide on what tasks to tackle, measure his skills
Remember that an authentic classical education involves teaching three skills to mastery: (1) reading comprehension, (2) critical thinking, and (3) effective written and spoken communication.
Don’t put the cart before the horse by downloading teaching tools without having a strategic reason for using that homeschool worksheet, writing that homeschool book report, or playing that homeschool math game.
What Classical Education Skills Need the Most Work?
First decide what skills need work, and then decide what tasks (like solving math square puzzles) will help your homeschool child master the skill. Standardized achievement tests provide a snapshot in time of your child’s progress (skills mastery) by:
- demonstrating knowledge
- tracking progress
- highlighting strengths and weaknesses
- clarifying curriculum choices
Achievement tests like the IOWA and Stanford tests typically include questions in the areas of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and reference sources. In developing the test by grade level, professional educators have identified certain basic knowledge or “content standards.”
When your homeschool child takes one of these standardized achievement tests, his responses are compared to the correct answers. The resulting report shows (1) the total number of questions in each category, (2) the number of questions your child attempted to answer, (3) the percentage of questions your child answered correctly, and (4) the percentage of questions that all other children answered correctly nationwide.
Achievement test bar charts and statistics quickly show what areas need attention
For example, math computation for the 9th grade IOWA test includes line items called integers, decimals/percents, fractions, and algebraic manipulations. Each line item includes a detailed analysis so that the parent can quickly see that the homeschool student has completely mastered fractions but still needs work with decimals.
Achievement test percentiles measure mastery
Does the test say that your child scores in the college grade equivalent for a certain category or with a national percentile rank of 95% or higher? If so, this could be one indicator that your child has mastered spelling; you can drop the spelling work and move on to teaching another skill.
As a teaching tool, achievement test results can guide you in planning the tasks that your child needs to tackle in order to master the three skills of the classical education trivium. Become an authorized test proctor, or find a friend or co-op who can administer the achievement test, and don’t worry about testing every year. Once every 2-3 years is enough to follow your homeschool child’s academic and intellectual progress.