Here’s what happened when we administered a standardized test at home with our kids.
Testing is the not so fun, not so exciting part of school. It commonly causes anxiety and stress in not just the students, but teachers, parents, and school administration. Being a homeschool family we have the freedom not to do any standardized tests. However, my husband and I do see some value in the results data we receive. Therefore, we made the decision to have our kids complete the IOWA Test at the end of the school year.
I have been the teacher administering the standardized test, the student taking the test, as well as the parent of the student taking the test. With those overwhelming experiences I do see the value in academic testing. I do not agree with the modern testing frequency that public school students in our state have to undergo. I have witnessed the severe pressure it puts on them negatively affecting their mental health. Likewise, it puts stress on teachers too, affecting their mental wellbeing. That being said, we still decided to give our homeschooled students a standardized test at the end of the school year. The IOWA Test offers a wealth of data in the results that helps me plan for the next school year.
The IOWA Test
Having experienced the stress of testing I wanted to give my kids the opposite. This test is not about pass or fail. I explained it’s simply to see what you know and what you may need to spend more time on next school year. The new IOWA Tests Form E are standardized tests nationally normed in 2011 & 2017 that measure student achievement and growth across a continuum of next generation learning standards. The IOWA Test allows homeschool families to borrow materials for a fee and administer the test at home or where ever they feel comfortable. It covers Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. We stayed home and administered the test over about a two week period.
I will admit that I think I have a bit of PTSD when it comes to testing. Having worked as a teacher I remember the immense pressure to do everything right, to keep everything secure, to follow directions precisely, or else it could mean your job. So when I got our testing materials in the mail I felt that pressure immediately. I had to sit with the tests and make our own schedule. What if I do something wrong? I was overwhelmed and there really wasn’t any need to be. My goal was still the same. No pressure. No stress. I wanted to make sure the kids knew it was just a test. While I had created a schedule I decided to give Conrad options. I passionately believe students need choices. I showed Conrad the titles of the tests and how much time is allotted for each one. I gave him the decision each day as to which part of the test to complete.
Conrad began testing in a separate room. However, the second day he asked if he could sit at the table with Genevieve and I. Of course! Again, I want this to be a comfortable environment. Our third day of testing was overwhelming. We were 15 minutes into testing and the lawn guys came. Genevieve was already having a hard time focusing. I had to read questions to her. The lawn guys were so loud. It felt like they were there an hour. I was frustrated. Genevieve couldn’t focus. Plus, she was trying to complete a very difficult portion of the test. Tears ran down her face and she went to her room. I failed. The environment was stressful. Genna asked if she could continue testing in her room. I said yes. So we finished testing in her room that morning. She sat up in her comfy bed surrounded by her favorite things and was able to focus. Conrad also had a difficult time one morning. He got very frustrated because he didn’t know the answers to a particular section.
But, I Don’t Know the Answer!
What happens when you don’t know the answers on a test? NOTHING! We had to have the talk again about the purpose of this standardized test. It is simply to see what you know and don’t know so we can plan for the next school year. That’s it! It’s that simple. So if you don’t know the answer to something make a guess and move on. Nothing will happen to you.
‘Science was frustrating. I felt stupid. I didn’t know half the answers. I felt better after we talked. The world isn’t gonna end if you get something wrong. I learned it’s ok to get something wrong. You just have to practice that thing more. Next school year we know what to study. I see the benefit of testing.’
Side Note: While he felt he did poorly in science Conrad actually score in the 96th percentile.
Overall, everyone did well. I am so proud of these two kids. They are incredibly smart and resilient. Testing is hard and they pushed through it doing their best. Looking back I know that when I get frustrated it doesn’t help anyone. Being aware of when those feelings start to stir and manage them is key in helping my kids successfully complete the test. We will use the IOWA Test next school year again.
It’s evident that no matter where you test the mental well being of everyone involved is of the utmost importance. It doesn’t matter if you know how to fill in a bubble with a number two pencil. What matters is keeping our hearts and minds calm and remembering it’s just a test.
Testing isn’t easy for anyone involved. Which is why I decided we needed ice cream when we were officially done and the tests were in the mail.