For decades, people have debated if it was good to depend on paper pencil tests to determine a child’s achievement. The battle is still raging. In schools, they are caught between making the teacher accountable to actually teach, and measuring the student’s progress. Their solution has been to rely on high stakes testing to determine both of these. Yet, with this move, they have hurt many children who just don’t test well, and others who have possibly had a bad day when the tests were given. In addition to this the children taking the tests are pretty stressed out. In many cases, these tests determine if the child will be promoted to the next grade.
Homeschoolers, on the other hand, have a wide open opportunity to make sure they are getting a balanced picture of their student’s assessment. A true balanced assessment plan will inclue performance assessments, projects, papers, and tests. Homeschool parents are motivated to make sure their own child is learning, so high stakes testing is a non-issue. Yet, standardized tests are still often a homeschool requirement for some states in America. When this is the case parents should never put too much emphasis on these tests. They should not be the sole determinant if the child is learning. These tests can be useful to tell parents exactly where their children may have gaps. They can even use these tests to tell them what areas should be focused on in the coming school year.
I can understand where states are coming from in requiring some type of standard measurement. Though homeschooling families are for the most part a dilligent and dependable lot, there are those who really don’t make an effort to encourage their children to excel. These children pay the price for that with a sub par education. Taking a standardized test every couple of years, will at least alert the parent to that fact if they are ignorant of their negligence.
Still a balanced education rich with real world context application is what each child needs. An overemphasis on testing will cause our children to begin cramming facts for tests that will only disappear a short while after the test is completed. Consequently, this will make a large part of their education a waste of time. Making children perform activities to show they have learned something, and even putting together projects and research papers can demonstrate a proficiency that will last in their memories much longer than factoids crammed in for tests.