Frequently Asked Questions About Testing & Evaluations
Am I required to have my child tested?
No, but you must have an annual evaluation as mandated by the state of Florida and testing is one method by which to complete this requirement. Another method used by many homeschooling families is a teacher evaluation. As the parent, you get to choose which method you feel is the most useful for you and most suitable for your child.
So, what is the difference between testing and a teacher evaluation?
Remember, either one satisfies the state requirement, so you can make a good choice for your family. Testing is a diagnostic tool showing you the subject areas in which the child excels or may need remedial help. It is a structured classroom experience that lasts either two or three mornings depending on how many subject areas you want tested.
A teacher evaluation involves a state-certified teacher reviewing your portfolio and interviewing your child. It should last about an hour and can be done in your home or another agreed-upon location. A parent has the freedom to choose the teacher, so be sure to choose someone you think will understand your method of homeschooling and will give you the kind of feedback you want and need for your program.
What if my child is in kindergarten?
Kindergarten really isn't the keyword in this. The key idea is your child's birthday! If you celebrated his/her 6th birthday before February 1, then you need to have a homeschool letter of intent on file with the superintendent of schools and you will need to complete the annual evaluation. Because we do not test children that young, we suggest you opt for a teacher to review your portfolio!
What if we haven't completed a full year of homeschooling?
The law allows you to wait a full year before completing the annual evaluation. However, we suggest that regardless of when you began your homeschooling program, you begin your annual evaluations within the normal calendar of the school year. That means, go ahead and either test or have a teacher evaluate your child in April or May. Both testing and teacher evaluations can compensate for an incomplete school year. If you wait, there's a good chance testing will not be available at a reasonable cost and teachers may be hard to engage. It also places your program in a more normal schedule with conferences, parent meetings, etc.
What should I do to prepare my kids for testing?
First, RELAX! Probably the most critical thing you can do is adjust your attitude to understanding that this "requirement" of the state is really cool! Embrace it, honestly!
But, if you want a "step by step" of what to do, let's look at it this way:
Ø DO NOT SAY PASS or FAIL! You do not want your child to panic. The test is just a way to celebrate all they have learned!
Ø DO NOT CRAM! If you didn't get as far as you wanted in your child’s learning, understand that cramming isn't really learning.
Ø DO ENCOURAGE! Reinforce that the test is just ONE tool used to measure success and all they accomplished and learned during the school year!
Ø DO SET A ROUTINE! Start several weeks ahead by setting a routine for bedtime, exercise, and nutrition.
Ø DO CREATE a relaxed atmosphere (less stress!) in your home.
Ø DO INFORM them several days ahead of time that there will be a change in routine for testing (or evaluation).
Ø DO PLAN AHEAD! Know the route to the testing location, have nutritious snacks ready for each day, and try to minimize distractions.
Ø DO ALLOW TIME FOR PLAY AND FUN!
Should you get those tests that familiarize kids with the forms of testing?
It's up to you. The younger children have the option of taking a pre-test and the older children catch on very quickly. We parents generally worry more than we should.
What do I do with the test results?
File them with your other important papers for each child. You never know when you're going to need them again.
But do this only after you study them. These results could very easily be the jumpstart of your program for the next year. Of course, there's always the chance that the results are fairly meaningless. Either you knew everything already or your child did not have a "normal" day, skewing their performance. Ask yourself these questions:
Ø Where is your child strong? Are you surprised?
Ø How about the weaknesses—did you already know those?
Ø Am I meeting my goals?
Ø Did the curriculum used meet our needs?
Ø Was it a challenging year?
Ø Was it a balanced year?
Ø Are there blind spots that need to be addressed?
What happens if the testing or evaluation shows that my child did not make progress?
First and foremost, DO NOT PANIC! If you agree that your child has not made progress, the Home Education Evaluation Form will be filed with the School Board stating, "no progress." The Home Education office will respond with a letter saying that your child is on probation for one year. That means that you have another year to remediate. It would be similar to holding your child back a year in the traditional school system. There's nothing wrong with this. In fact, many parents choose to slow down to make sure their children are truly learning and not just memorizing. If your child is put on probation, then the following year they must show progress to remain in the home education system.
However, if you feel the first results are invalid, the law allows your child to be re-tested or evaluated. In this case, you would most likely schedule an evaluation with a certified teacher for a portfolio review.