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.
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.