On April 1, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed House Bill 1381 repealing the law that required homeschool students to participate in standardized testing. Many homeschool families, including our family, see this as a victory. There are many people, homeschool parents included, that don’t think this is a good thing.
The people in support of homeschool students taking standardized tests say that the tests do the following things:
- Show that homeschool students score higher than public school students (hs parents)
- Make sure students are on track and not falling behind (public school advocates)
- Prepare students for college entrance tests like the SATS and ACTS (both)
First of all, I am one of those people that doesn’t believe standardized tests are all they’re cracked up to be. A timed test can make students feel rushed and feel pressured to answer questions too quick and result in silly mistakes they wouldn’t normally make. Students know this test is important because of all the prep work that goes into it and the spill they get about sleep and eating during the week of the test. The fact that the test takes up a portion of an entire week of school is enough to let students know this test is important which can lead to stress-induced mistakes on the test.
I see high school students get frazzled over having to take the ACT all the time. If a 16-year-old can get frazzled and get “stage fright” when it comes to taking a test an 8-year-old is definitely capable of feeling frazzled about a test. If I start pushing for answers and making Josiah feel rushed he makes all kinds of mistakes that I know he wouldn’t normally be making.
Most homeschool families, including our family, agree that standardized testing is useless and goes against some of the very reasons why we homeschool.
Families tend to homeschool for one of the following reasons:
- They believe the education system is broken
- They believe that public education is not the best fit for their child to succeed academically
- They don’t want the government telling parents what their students have to learn whether it be based on principles or faith-based reasoning.
Standardized tests for public schools measures not only how well a student is doing, but how well a school is doing overall. It compares all the schools in the state and in the country. If a student doesn’t score proficient or advanced then they receive some type of remediation to get them where they should be. If a school doesn’t have a certain percentage of students to score proficient or advanced then the school gets remediation. Eventually the government can step in and take steps to ensure that the school is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. All because of this standardized test.
When a parent chooses to homeschool in Arkansas they sign a waiver stating that the Arkansas Department of Education is not held responsible for their child’s education. A parent in Arkansas is not required to do anything beyond that. The state has no right to interfere with the child’s education once that waiver is signed and submitted by the parent and acknowledged by the school district. Because of this, a homeschool student taking the standardized tests is useless.
Tests and studies have proved for a long time that homeschool students have a tendency to score higher on tests than public school students so we don’t need a standardized test to continue to prove that point. Most homeschool parents aren’t concerned with how their children are doing compared to other homeschool children so it’s not like we need the testing to compare homeschools. The state can’t step in and require remediation if a homeschool student isn’t scoring proficient so why do they need the scores? Many homeschool parents are leery of the government requiring these tests because it would be easy for them justify passing a law allowing state intervention in homeschools.
It’s not that homeschool families don’t believe in accountability or that we have something to hide. Honestly, most of it is that standardized tests do not fit the homeschool model. Many homeschool curriculums require the same things as public schools, but the scope and sequence for each grade might be slightly different. Many homeschool students are learning at a higher level than their same-age public school peers.
Josiah is almost an entire year ahead of where he should be. So should he be forced to take the test one year younger because he’s a grade ahead or one grade above because that’s when his age group is testing. Either way the test isn’t fair. If he keeps at the pace he’s going he will be 7 and in 3rd grade — an entire year younger than all the other students taking the test. He may be academically ready to take the test, but not emotionally or maturity wise. If we wait until he’s 8 like the rest of his peers, he’ll actually be in 4th grade taking a test meant for 3rd graders.
Homeschool parents don’t typically need a standardized test to tell them how well their child is doing because as the teacher they already know. They know if their child is struggling in reading, but excelling in math. They pick the grade appropriate curriculum and they work with the child every day — they know. They don’t need a state-mandated test to tell them.
That’s why I am so excited about the elimination of standardized tests for homeschool students.
*Everything said above is referring to the majority of homeschool families and not the few that abuse their rights as homeschool parents. There is always the exception to the rule whether it be a public school family or homeschool family.*