This will be our second year providing "proof of progress" to the state. It may be a bit early to think about this, but I would rather contemplate it in the dead of winter than in the spring, when the warm weather beckons. This year, like last, I plan to have my daughter tested to provide proof of progress. Our state allows a few different ways of providing proof and, though I found testing distasteful last year, I chose it because it seemed to me to be the easiest and least invasive option. This year I'm chosing it for those reasons and for the additional reason that I think it's good exposure to what testing is.
This is quite a change for me. A few years ago I was more likely to go on a rant about what testing doesn't prove, such as knowledge and ability. It's only recently that I've realized that test-taking is a valid skill in itself and one that we will most likely face at some point in our lives. I am still skeptical of testing and while I think it's a valid and necessary skill, I am not under any illusion that it proves anything. It's a necessary evil at this point, one I would love to see go away, but until then, I want my children to be able to navigate basic tests.
Occasionally, there will be a question on the homeschooling listservs about testing, especially with regard to unschooling. I certainly understand the view that testing is antithetical to unschooling. However, it's an administrative necessity we face throughout life. For example, the written portion of the driver's exam in order to get a license doesn't prove the ability to drive, but it's a requirement in order to drive legally. There are professional and vocational entrance exams one must pass if they want to work in a particular field - medical boards, the bar exam for lawyers, teacher licensing exams, real estate, accounting, etc. Of course, we know all about the pre-admission tests for college and graduate programs such as SATs, LSATs, MCATs, GREs, GMATs, etc. Testing is a part of life and it's a skill I'd like my daughters to learn, as painlessly as possible.
Our state accepts the California Achievement Test (CAT) as proof of progress provided the student scores at a certain level. Based on what I had read and heard from other homeschoolers in the state, the CAT test would provide me with the needed proof, provided my child achieved the necessary score, but it might not provide me with much feedback about what my child is actually learning. That is fine with me at this point. Since I am with her throughout the day, I feel pretty confident that I know what she knows, where her strengths are, and where her interests lie. Perhaps in a few years I will find it helpful to use a more comprehensive test, perhaps not, but right now, the CAT test suits us.
The test provider I used last year also sells the Spectrum test prep book, sections of which are very similar to the sections on the CAT test. I thought this would be a good chance for my daughter to familiarize herself with what the test is like, especially focusing on the ever important test-taking skill of reading the directions carefully. I bought the test prep book last winter and looked through it. I considered giving it to my daughter to work on last winter, thinking we might try to test a bit early and be done with it. My husband suggested that we wait until the spring, since our daughter is learning all the time and concepts she might not be very familiar with in the winter might be old hat by the spring. I agreed and stuck the test prep book in the closet.
When spring came and I was aware that the summer due date for proof of progress was not that far away, I thought it was time to pull out the test prep book. Suzanne enjoys working in workbooks on occasion. I've never assigned her any work in them and perhaps that is one reason she enjoys them or maybe she's just the kind of kid who likes workbooks now and then. I pulled out the book and asked her if she would work in it over the next week or so. Suzanne was very interested in the book and proceeded to work through the entire book in a couple of days. This was very useful to me, I was able to see what she understood and what she didn't. I was also able to correct any misunderstandings she had about what was being asked. It gave me the chance to go over material that she didn't understand and teach her is a low-key way.
I was happy when several weeks later I received the test results that would satisfy the state for another year and I'm sort of excited to test again this year -- it's an interesting change to our usual routine.
I love that homeschooling allows my children the opportunity to learn about testing without having testing overshadow actual learning.
Marjorie has been homeschooling her two young daughters for justa few years. Her family chose homeschooling for the freedom it afforded them -- freedom from the school schedule and calendar; freedom to follow her children's interests; freedom from labeling and categorizing her children; and freedom from testing and homework. She enjoys volunteering with her state's inclusive homeschool association and writing on her blog, unclimber.