Standardized Testing

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Last week, my children took their annual standardized tests at our umbrella school in Knoxville. In Tennessee, one can sign up under the local school district, or with an umbrella school. Umbrella schools come in different shapes, forms and sizes. Some are remote places that will not require much of you in exchange for the piece of paper which shows that you are not truant.

Terra Nova 3 test prep materials

Test Prep books we used – our test is called Terra Nova 3.

Others are local brick-and-mortar schools with a homeschool umbrella program. As such, they will give your child a diploma when high school graduation comes around. The diploma will not even mention the word “homeschool,” which makes the umbrella school hold parents to a high standard. Many such local umbrella schools require annual testing.  Continue reading »

Our umbrella school, Berean Christian School in Knoxville, requires testing starting in second grade, with an optional test in first grade. I know people who are not registered officially to homeschool for fear that their children will be required to test. The conspiracy theories abound among such people. That their children will freeze and not score high or, on the contrary, do a great job, but the test providers will give them a bad score, which forces the parents to put them in public school etc.

I have made up my mind that I will not be truant. We live in a free world, governed by laws. As long as I follow the law of the land, I want to believe that nobody will come knocking on my door to ask for my children. I have documentation on hand which shows we are registered legally for homeschooling in the State of Tennessee.

And if testing shows my children do not score well, then I am the first one to put them in a different academic environment or the change what we are doing. But, as it turns out, my children score well. We will only know the results of these tests in April, I think. Judging from the previous two years, we should be fine this year, too.

This year, one of my children said the test was “very easy.” The other one had time to draw three pages of detailed comics during the test – they finished that much ahead of the allotted time. So I am not worried.

We like to cover a lot of material before the test even though it is not an end-of-year test. This is simply a preparation for the ACT or SAT – whichever we will decide to take once college plans must be made. It is also a tool for me to know if we are doing a good job or not. If we have gaps in our knowledge, we had better know about it, right?

Thoughtful Thursday Week 17 – Test Results

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We received our son’s Terra Nova 3 test scores and we were very pleased. His scores were excellent, way above the national average and showing that he does work beyond his grade level. We are very proud of him indeed. We will continue doing what we have been doing.

Thoughtful Thursday - Test Results

We learned several things from his test scores. Even though he did not score low in any one objective, he scored lower in some objectives and higher in others. Looking back at our school year, some of the scores surprised me and others confirmed what I already knew about him; all the more reason to keep testing every year.

We are not in this situation, but we know that if a child tests lower than expected, we should all consider several reasons. It could be that the child has never learned the subject matter presented on the test. Or, perhaps, the child never really understood what was taught to him. Last but not least, the child may know the subject, but he may very well just be so nervous about the test, that he freezes and forgets the answers.

All this to say that tests are good tools to assess where your child is, where you are, where you need to grow.

Thoughtful Thursday Week 12 – Standardized Testing

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In the US, one cannot go very far in an educational quest before coming face to face with the concept of standardized testing. My son is enrolled under the umbrella of Berean Christian School Homeschool Program. In the state of Tennessee, where we live, umbrella schools mean something very different from California, for instance. Umbrella schools in Tennessee simply keep your cumulative record and administer standardized testing. Some will offer more assistance than others.

I interviewed several in my area and Providence seemed to be directing me to Berean. The coordinator for K-8th is Lisa Lee, a teacher by profession who homeschooled her own children in the 90s. After a few interactions with her, I knew I wanted to place our homeschool in her hands.


Homeschoolers under the Berean umbrella program must test every year at the school, starting in the second grade. Testing is available, albeit optional for first grade. We decided we wanted our son tested in the first grade because:

  • We can. Really. Why not?
  • I want to know how I am doing.
  • I also want to know if my son can handle a test.
  • I want to find out if my son does work on his grade level, higher, or lower.

Continue reading »

All this information will help me plan for next year. Tests are tools. We don’t quiz or test that much at home. Our atmosphere is relaxed and we don’t stress our children about grades and scores. For us, a standardized test is simply a way to find out how we are doing.

We had to be in the chapel of the Berean Christian School at 8:30. Ed Lee, the coordinator for grades 9th-12th, spoke to us about the mechanics of the test. He made several other announcements pertaining to our life as homeschoolers under the Berean umbrella. He reminded us and our students that Philippians 4:6 says “Be anxious for nothing…” and then he added, “That includes standardized testing…”

One by one, each level left the chapel, with a teacher who had been assigned to administer the test. In first grade, our son joined about 14 other kids.

We came back to get him three hours later. My daughter and I went to The Muse, to hang out there. We watched a movie in the Planetarium, about Rusty Rocket and the Solar System. We played with chopsticks to help fine motor skills develop. We played with magnets. It was fun and educational. It helps that The Muse is only five minutes away from Berean. Of course, we could have also gone to the Zoo, which is only four minutes away from Berean.

The next day, we repeated the process. And that was that. Now I can tell you that our son just took his first standardized test, Terra Nova 3, a nationally standardized test. The Terra Nova 3 is different from TCAPs, the test taken by public school students in Tennessee in that Terra Nova, like Stanford, tests your knowledge for that particular day of the year. It is normed to be given between day 136 and day 160 of school. Also, it will tell us how our son is doing against other children in the USA, not just Tennessee. The TCAP is a year-end test which only tells you how your child is doing against other children in Tennessee.

Given that Tennessee is ranked 41 out of 50 states in education, according to my local newspaper, I really don’t want to know how my children are doing against other children in Tennessee. I might get the idea that they are doing really well, when in reality they might be doing poorly against children from New York or California or Rhode Island for that matter. And that comes into play big time when you start looking at colleges.

I know, I know, we still have a few years before we even start to learn how to take a test like the PSAT. For now, I am enjoying homeschooling and learning about testing. I am training my children to enjoy taking a test once a year at Berean. No pressure, no anxiety, no expectations. We just told our son that for school that day we would go to Berean and he would sit in a classroom with another teacher and some children his age. That he would be given a workbook and he would have to answer the questions to the best of his knowledge. That we loved him and we would be right there to pick him up when he was finished.

Nobody should develop test anxiety. Tests are tools and they help homeschool teachers very much. If the is test administered right, children need not experience any stress through the testing process.