Grading and Testing - Is it Necessary?

August 16, 2017
Mercy Every Minute   


I was quite nervous; we were not required to test our children in California. However, our new state of Colorado requires testing! Would they do well, or would the test prove that I am a failure as a teacher? I feared the latter. Although the test was for the children, I felt like their results would reflect on my ability or lack of ability to teach. I prayed, “LORD, help!” 


After a week of testing each child, the results came in. They all averaged at least three grade levels higher than the general population of test takers in their grades. What?!? Even I was a bit shocked. I knew it was not because of my great teaching skills (I feel like we have gaps; we don’t cover enough subjects adequately, and I don’t spend enough time with each child, etc., etc.), and not because my children are superior or brainy (pretty normal kids), but maybe because we pray for wisdom, try to do our best, stay consistent, and leave the rest in God’s hands. We have time for creative and critical thinking, nature exploration, and lots of good reading. The kids get enough rest, good nutrition, and affection—all proven to be beneficial for increased learning. Who knew? Homeschoolers, that’s who!


Here are a few benefits of testing:

  • Test results can guide us in our curriculum choices for the next year. 
  • Our children learn to take the first of many tests that may come in their academic future. 
  • Test results confirm that our children have done well despite us. It encourages us to continue on the journey. 


Homeschooling rocks the testing world in so many ways. Check out NHERI’s Research Facts on Homeschooling.* Here are some amazing facts:

  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income. 
  • Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement. 
  • Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement. 
  • Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges. 

You are doing well (and so are your kids) by keeping your children Home Where They Belong!


~Deborah 

dwuehler@theoldschoolhouse.com


The Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing, by Zan Tyler

Grading Middle School and High School Essays With Confidence, by Sharon Watson

Is Your Child a Poor Test Taker? 3 Ways to Improve Scores, by Dianne Craft

*Copyright © 2016 by Brian D. Ray, rev. Mar. 23, 2016


 

Build the Joy of Learning First, Test and Grade Later

As a homeschooler in Ontario, I have the freedom to not have to meet standards, or submit paperwork, or create a portfolio. I have the freedom to teach my child in a way that suits our family and style of schooling.


I have that thought in the back of my brain as I write these words to you, wanting to caution you, my readers, to know the laws of your state or province before making your own decisions about tests and grades.


The advantages of testing and issuing grades is clear. You know where your child stands in comparison to other students of his/her age/grade, giving you a clear picture on what they truly know and what they don’t. If issued by a third party, they are impartial, not reflecting any bias or prior knowledge on your part. They tell your student what their areas of weakness are so they can work to improve in that area.


The disadvantages of grading and testing: They judge the student's ability to perform under pressure, using a stated set of questions that may or may not be clearly understood by the student at that time. They can cause a student to feel like a failure if they don’t achieve a mark they want, even though they worked hard to learn the material.


My thoughts about issuing grades and offering tests is that they are not required before Grade 6. I see them as detrimental to learning and putting pressure on students that doesn’t need to be there, especially in a homeschool situation where you tend to know what your children understand and what they are struggling with. They are more prone to think of themselves as failures if they don’t get a perfect mark. I know that for my son, when I’ve used online programs with built-in marking, not getting that perfect answer caused him to think of himself as a failure. Removing that option of being graded immediately boosted his spirits and meant that any errors that happened became points of discussion rather than a child shut down by failure. We want our children to be actively engaged in the learning process for the joy and needfulness of study, not in the “I have to study this because I need to get a good grade.” It’s a different focus and needs to be promoted during these early years of schooling.


When I started schooling, and observed my son and other children’s reactions to grades and tests, I became convinced that delaying tests and grades until Grade 6/7 was preferrable, as by then the student has the emotional maturity to handle the results of the tests. Tests and grading then becomes a useful feature, allowing the student to clearly see areas of weakness and strength, giving the student a goal to push toward in their pursuit of excellence.


My observations of my son has shown this to be true. It’s been interesting watching how as he matures, he has become more interested in knowing how his learning compares with that of other students. He likes knowing that his thinking is on track, that other students might struggle in the same way, or in ways quite different. It’s given him a goal to push toward. He no longer feels like a failure, but like a person with a goalHow can he improve? What is it that he didn’t understand?and he now actively seeks out the answer.


In talking with his friends and their parents, I have found this to be true, as well. It’s good to see that determination in these older students to excel in their areas of strength and to build up their areas of weakness to a point of, at least, toleration.  


Past Grade 7/8, I know that I will need to start tracking grades and issuing tests more frequently, in order to create a transcript as needed for entering colleges or universities. Fortunately, there are programs out there to help in this endeavour: Excel spreadsheets to track grades, high school course-coding to give proper labelling, various online courses that will automatically grade, and more helps. We can follow in the footsteps of those who have gone on before (and that’s a very good thing!).


In summary:

  • Know your provincial or state laws. Follow them.

  • Grade and test as needed by you and your children.

  • But, in my opinion, until grade six, they generally aren’t needed.

  • Know your children, know your material, build that joy and interest in learning—that’s the priority in the earlier years of schooling. Tests and grades will come, and they should, but first see the joy and the drive to learn!


~Annette


I am Annette, I blog through A Net In Time, sharing book and curriculum reviews, my faith, homeschooling tidbits, and poetry as I walk with life with my family. You are welcome to join me, sharing your stories along the way. 

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My name is Annette and I blog at A Net in Time (www.anetintime.ca). I love teaching people about homeschooling and interesting places to go. I also enjoy educating people about resources available to them. Teaching and offering encouragement to others is a big part of my blog. Come join me won’t you?


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Kerry Tittle 


Like almost every other area regarding our children, the topic of testing and grading is one where the right approach depends on the specific child’s age and educational needs.


Let me be clear that if you live in a state that requires testing or grading, then you should comply with those laws. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1 ESV*). But beyond what is required, how should we think about grading and testing?


I am among those who honestly think we test and keep grades because the school system has always done it. Teachers needed a method to track the child’s progress. It was readily available if the principal or the parent asked for it. However, if someone asks us how our child does in a certain subject we don’t have to go to a filing cabinet to look up a progress report. We know right away what our child’s strengths and weaknesses are. Therefore, I am not hung up on assigning grades to young children. But during high school, grades are more important for transcripts, so tracking grades in the elementary years may be a good exercise to prepare you for later.


Testing, however, is a mixed bag. Standardized testing has serious flaws and everyone knows it. Public school teachers are pressured to teach tests which devastates learning altogether. In many states, homeschoolers are required to take the same tests. Several years ago, when our state required the Iowa test, I watched my daughter in the rearview mirror lean over the seat and say, “Hey, did you get the test with the tortilla question?” Her sister laughed and said, “Yes,” and another daughter piped in and said she remembered that one, too! They had administered the same test for three consecutive grade levels for so long that the kids made a game of it. This was anything but helpful for me to determine how my children were doing academically.


Testing has its place though. As the child gets older and starts learning more independently, you can lose the feel for what they are retaining. Testing can expose gaps that need to be filled, so I administer tests that come with the curriculum. This has always been sufficient enough to let me know if they have a proficient understanding of the subject or not.


It’s also unreasonable to think that our children will never test. We don’t want them staring at the ACT sweating bullets because they were never taught to test. This could rob them of important opportunities (including scholarships). Earlier testing can provide good practice that will benefit them in the future.


Bottom line: Customize your homeschool to what works best for your child. My goal to homeschool my children was never to ace tests. (I’m sure that’s good news for my not-so-good test takers!) My goal was to be faithful with the time and the children God gave me. Sometimes that requires testing and grading and sometimes it doesn’t.


~ Kerry


Kerry Tittle is a mother of 9 children and an 18-year homeschool veteran. She was the founder of ReformationKidz Publishing that was lost to a natural disaster. Her desire is to honor Christ while encouraging parents during the hard years of homeschooling.


*The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway,
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved.
ESV Text Edition: 2016


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“Is grading and testing necessary?” This is the age-old question asked by, and asked of homeschoolers. Now, since anyone can be an expert who assigns the title to themselves . . . let me just say, as an expert, “NO—unless you live in a state that demands it.”


So, the first order of business is to find out if your state requires it. If so, either meet their requirements, or move to another state. (I recommend the latter.)


Now, if you live in a state that doesn’t require testing or grading of you, then don’t test or grade. “Why?” you might ask. Because it doesn’t measure anything accurately except whether your children can take tests. I was great at taking tests, but it was not a measure of how much I knew. Believe me!


None of my eight children have ever taken a test in our homeschool. It was my wife’s brilliant idea. She told me one day, “Why do I need to test the kids to see how they’re doing when I sit next to them all day long and KNOW how they’re doing?”


Now, some other self-appointed experts would argue, “Yes, but if you don’t give your children tests in the younger grades, they won’t know how to take tests when they get to college.”


Oh, whatever!!! My oldest son, who had never taken a test growing up, took and passed, with flying colors, gobs of CLEP tests. Myth debunked!


So, let’s move on. We’re homeschoolers. Let’s teach and learn like homeschoolers, and leave this testing model behind. You know what one of the byproducts of not testing is?


SMILES.


Be real . . . and hold off starting school as long as you can!!!!

Todd


P.S. Need some daily homeschool encouragement? Check out the book, 365 Day Homeschooling Mom. I've had many moms tell me it sits right next to their Bible and gets them through each day.





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Raising Real Men    

Grading is one of those things we worried about when we were getting started. Should everything be graded, or nothing? How strict is strict enough? What standards are we supposed to use?


Remember this simple principle: Report cards are meant to communicate beyond the schoolroom. Homeschooling parent, do you know whether your child understands or not? Of course, if you’re the teacher. In a classroom setting, the teacher sends home grades so parents know how their child is doing. Homeschoolers know. In elementary school, you don’t need to worry too much at all about formal grades. We don’t. We grade tests or papers so our children know how to improve, but we don’t do term or yearly grades. We don’t need to.


High school is time for grading, though. After graduation, your home scholar will be applying for jobs, colleges, scholarships, and the like. And guess what? NOW you need to communicate your student’s accomplishments outside your “classroom.” In fact, your student’s eligibility for scholarships, jobs, and other opportunities may depend on the GPA (grade point average) on their transcript. 


Sometimes we homeschoolers grade too harshly because we want so much to be fair and honest. If anything, homeschool parents are more likely to suppress grades rather than inflate them. Don’t do this to your students! You want them to be compared fairly to others. We’d recommend using straight letter grades, such as A, B, and C, and using a pretty wide range like 90-100 for A, 80-89 for B, and so on. Likewise, grade to best reflect your student’s knowledge. Got a student who knows the material, but doesn’t test well? Grade them on every bit of homework, labs, discussion, and projects. If the tests do accurately reflect their success, though, you don’t need to bother with keeping track of all the rest.


Outside classes and standardized testing are a piece of the puzzle. Try to see it from the viewpoint of the admission office; they know whether different high schools are a top school or a not-so-good one. Your tiny private school doesn’t have a reputation they can look at, so a few outside evaluations can verify what you put on their transcript. These can be anything from a co-op class to an Advanced Placement exam, not to mention SAT and ACT scores.


Transcripts are easier than you think. Yeah, we all get stressed, but really it’s not that hard. Honestly, keeping a good relationship with your teen, a critical thing in these years, is much harder. Save your concern for where you need it! 


Still worried? Here’s a free download of our Homeschooling High School & Transcripts workshop, complete with a sample transcript you are welcome to use. Just click here and enjoy! 


Your friends,

Hal & Melanie

info@raisingrealmen.com



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Contest Corner 
For the month of August


Easy Grammar was written by an English teacher who felt there should be a program that not only taught each foundational concept, but continued to build upon it in order to achieve mastery. Easy Grammar is a comprehensive, yet straightforward approach to teaching grammar. Dr. Phillips uses a method I have never seen before, in which the student learns first to identify prepositional phrases. This helps eliminate problems with identifying other parts of speech. Following prepositions, the table of contents includes verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, sentence types, friendly letter, interjections, conjunctions, sentences and fragments, sentences and run-ons, capitalization, punctuation, and writing sentences.


To facilitate a review, I received a complete Grade 5 Set, which includes the Teacher’s Manual, Student Workbook, and Student Test Booklet. I used this set with my ten-year-old who is currently finishing fourth grade. The teacher’s manual is just over 700 pages and includes introductory information on how to use the program, a copy of every worksheet in the student book, and an answer key. You will also find pre-test and post-test assessments, as well as sample lessons for Daily Grams: Grade 5, which is another Easy Grammar series.


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(Read the rest of the review.)



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