Monday, October 03, 2011

The One About The Standardized Test

So, last week, we finished up our first-ever state-mandated bout of homeschool standardized testing. It was an interesting experience all around.

Okay, so the law in Georgia is that homeschool kids have to take a standardized test at "the end of third grade" and every three years after that. There are NO reporting/oversight requirements, though I can think of a few situations in which you might be legally called upon to show proof of having met this requirement.

I hemmed and hawed all summer and didn't get around to ordering a test until mid-September. So for those of you reading this, be aware that Ryan wasn't officially "promoted" to fourth grade until, um, well, today.

A good thing about homeschooling is that designations like grade levels are fairly irrelevant and therefore, elastic, particularly when the kids progress in different areas at different rates of speed. And there's nothing in the law that says you must only promote to a new grade level at the end of a calendar school year, now that I think about it. Flexibility--one of the best things about homeschooling ever.

On the other hand, a bad thing about homeschooling is that none of the kids ever knows how to answer the question "What grade are you in?" 

When I talked to Ryan about this testing business, his first reaction was something like, and I'm only slightly paraphrasing, NO FREAKING WAY. Why? Mostly because that seems to be his usual reaction to anything I mention. It's his way.

Then I explained about Georgia. How it makes all of the laws regarding the education of all children in the state, and I showed him the home study laws. He was seriously affronted by this revelation that the state of Georgia had any interest in him at all. I felt pride and sympathy for him all at the same time.

So we talked about times we have chosen to disregard the law (as in, non-homeschooling laws) and times we have chosen to follow it even when we hate it and view it as a violation of our rights. We talked about good reasons for disobeying a law and good reasons for choosing to follow it. We talked about the risks taken when you choose not to follow a law, and the specific risks we would take by not following this particular law. We talked about the chances we might be caught if we skipped over this testing business. We talked about our feelings about all of this bothersome nuisance from the state and why it ought to just leave us alone instead.

We talked and talked and talked and talked. It's our way. And yes, I consider those discussions part of our homeschooling.

And then he agreed to take a test. I ordered the PASS test, which I chose for the following reasons: it could be parent-administered; it was untimed; it was cheap.

When it arrived, he balked again, but I reminded him of our interminable previous discussions and his agreement to submit to testing. And really, that's all he needed to acquiesce, just a reminder or two that this was not my idea and that we were all doing this because we were compelled to do so by law.

As I mentioned in a postscript in my long kid update post of the other week, I'm not really opposed to testing per se. Though I have many problems with bubble-in-the-multiple-choice-answer-scantron-tests, I know that they are common and a part of life. I think learning to take such tests is a skill that can be developed.

What I object to is not the testing itself as such, but to the reality that the decision of when to test has been wrested from my control (where it belongs) by the state of Georgia, the self-appointed babysitter decision maker of when and how such things get done. 

I object to this strenuously and on principle. Even as I recognize that the home study requirements in Georgia are fairly loose compared with other states, my rights and my child's rights are being infringed upon.

Even a little bit of rights-violation chafes a lot. Because it's the principle of the thing. I do not enjoy being parented by the state, and I especially do not enjoy being parented by the state over how I parent my child.

Personally, I think any smallish infringement of individual rights ought to hurt people to a great degree. And I find it distressing that it doesn't seem to affect most other people in the same way it affects me.

But I digress.

Back to the test. It was a fairly smooth process, considering who all was involved. :D

There were three sections: Reading Comprehension, Math, and Language (Grammar). He took the placement tests which gave us the correct section to use during the real test. And then he took one test per day until he was all finished.

Reading was the smoothest, partly because it was first and partly because it was shortest section of the test. And also because it was the easiest subject for him. Ryan laughed and laughed over the silly, contrived sentences ("A rooster named JOHN! Come on, that's ridiculous!"). He also enjoyed how the pattern of answers emerged, and began to root for his favorite letters: "Oh look! Three Bs in a row! Come on, B!"

Math was a bit more challenging as I expected, given his complete and utter apathy toward the subject. But we made it through. I, uh, may have explained to him at some point that if he thought this test was bad, those poor kids who are in school have to do this EVERY SINGLE YEAR instead of every three years like the homeschooled kids. Perspective is a good thing to have sometimes. Language went a bit better than Math, only because he remembered some of the rules from Grammar Rock and because he really got into rooting for the Bs again.

I was with him through the testing process and while we don't have the scores yet, I know what to expect. What I saw of his performance was in keeping of my own assessment of how he's doing, so no surprises really.

The testing company requires that all test materials be destroyed after the test has been administered, so we all had great fun in putting all of the pages into the giant shredder. Ryan had the honor of shredding the first pages.

Ryan's forgotten all about it by now I'm sure and has moved on with his life. I'll look over the results when I receive them and share them with him if he wants to see. I'm sure I'll learn something from the results, which I'll note and use to improve things if I can, and then I'll file the results away in my 2011-2012 Homeschool Folder. Just so I can say I complied with the law.

Overall, the testing experience was a good one and we both learned a lot. But most of what Ryan learned had nothing to do with what was on the test, one of those pesky "unintended consequences" that plague our lawmakers from time to time.

Ah well . . . they can't help it if I turn every discussion about state-required homeschool paperwork into a Civics, Government, and Ethics lesson here at our happy homeschool. :D

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