While a homeschool assessment must be done every year for students of compulsory age, there are two main options to choose from: testing and portfolio review. The portfolio review option was hard-won in 1994 to help special needs students and others for whom testing is less appropriate, such as students with test anxiety or pre-readers. For example, there are disadvantages to using standardized testing prior to 2nd or 3rd grade. We recommend becoming educated about the level of reading required for early-level testing. If your student is not yet ready for that reading level, you might consider an alternative assessment.
As you consider your choices, this article about reading-readiness prior to age seven should be helpful. If you decide that testing is your best choice this year, another of our articles gives prep ideas, many of which need implemented several weeks before testing.
Keep in mind that testing environment matters. While students who are good testers (usually those who easily sit still for book work) do well in almost any testing environment, most students gain an advantage when the environment is familiar. That serves well when testing with co-op buddies or homeschool friends. But for those who are heading to an unfamiliar test center, prepare your child by helping them relax and not feel pressured from the stress of the new social situation.
Private testing in your own home is an option that allows a young student to test in an un-rushed manner in a familiar environment. Short attention spans might also benefit from private testing, as a parent could make arrangements with a private administrator to span the testing over additional days.
Using the same assessment option year to year isn’t necessary, as both testing and portfolio review have their own benefits. While portfolio review is designed to compare the student with his or her own abilities, testing does give credible and useful information about how your student compares with other students. Standardized tests are also good practice for testing environments down the line, such as college prep exams and dual enrollment classes. Many parents who use portfolio review in the early years switch to testing by mid-elementary.
Hover over the “Assessments” menu option to peruse all your assessment options. Still have questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.