SummaryStandardized testing with Seton Testing Services can confirm academic progress is on track, ease student test anxiety, and help boost SAT and ACT scores.
Give a standardized test to some homeschoolers, and the veterans of such tests will not blink an eye. “Bring it on,” they might say as they grab their Number 2 pencils, snag a seat at a desk, and attack the test.
On the other hand, rookie test-takers may be overcome with fear and doubt, quaking inside with anxiety and as dry in the mouth as a desert.
In part to help homeschooling students become comfortable with such ordeals, Felicity Smoot, Assistant Director at Seton Testing Services, recommends taking standardized tests like the IOWA-E Test or the Stanford 10 Online.
Although these tests are not mandatory for enrolled Seton students and some states don’t require them, Smoot, who holds a degree in psychology from Virginia’s Old Dominion University and who has worked for Seton Testing for six years, points out the benefits for students sitting for such tests. “They become used to the standardized testing process,” she says, “and it will ease their anxieties when they take the SAT or ACT for college admission. Standardized testing can also help boost a student’s SAT or ACT scores.”
Smoot adds that a standardized test allows students to compare their academic standing with hundreds of thousands of peers around the nation. “The tests can be useful for seeing if they are on track,” she says.
The Key to Raising Scores
Statistical evidence exists to back Smoot’s claim that standardized tests can increase scores on the exams required for college admissions.
Researchers who investigated performance on the IOWA Assessments came up with data showing a relation between the IOWA tests and improved scores on the ACT as well as preparedness for college itself. As they write, “College readiness information gives educators and families information they need to determine whether students are on track to successfully complete first-year college coursework upon graduation from high school or whether additional coursework and preparation are necessary.
“It allows families and educators to monitor student progress from middle school through high school and allows flexibility to determine the appropriate improvement and support strategies for students as they plan for postsecondary education opportunities.”
In other words, these tests help determine whether Sam or Mary is ready to head off to university.
Just as importantly, they can act as guides for a student’s academic progress. In the online article “Complete Guide to Homeschool Testing,” Tasha Swearingen lists the states along with their testing requirements and then describes how homeschoolers can register for these tests, specifically listing Seton among available resources.
In my own homeschooling days, North Carolina required us to take a standardized test every year, a requirement still in place, and we would order those tests from Seton.
Staying on Course
Most often we chose the CAT, though once or twice my wife may have ordered the IOWA-E test. When we received the test scores, we could then decide where a child might need some extra work or help in a certain area, and so better plan our curriculum for the following year.
I remember in particular one of our sons scoring low in a grammar test and reinforcing that subject in the fall in his schoolwork.
Several times, our co-op also ordered our tests as a group from Seton. As Felicity Smoot told me, the two advantages here are the reduced costs—a bulk order of tests receives a 10% discount from Seton—and the social setting of the test itself.
Leveling the Playing Field
This last point is important. Unlike many public and private school students, homeschooling students may be unaccustomed to the ordeal of timed tests in a classroom with their peers. By sitting for these tests in such an environment, where others are around them and where they must keep an eye on the clock, our children become much more comfortable with these tests and with the college admissions exams.
Once the scores are sent to the parents, they can use that information in different ways. Some share the scores with their children, going over what the numbers mean and showing them where there is room for improvement. Others look over the scores without giving their kids access to them, but instead use the scores, as mentioned above, to help plan the next year’s curriculum.
Not everyone is a fan of standardized testing. In “Is Standardized Testing Necessary for Homeschooled Students?” Marianne Sunderland, homeschooling mother of eight and creator of the website Homeschooling With Dyslexia, argues there are negatives to these tests and then offers help to those whose states
Though I disagree with Sunderland, believing that standardized tests can benefit students, I wholeheartedly approve her recommendations to those who by law must take these tests, given that my wife and I both practiced what she advocates.
Common Sense Advice
She makes five good points to keep in mind when our children are taking such tests:
- Demonstrate a relaxed attitude about the testing. This will reassure your child and places the appropriate value on the testing.
- Teach your kids basic test-taking skills like how to handle multiple choice questions and other strategies such as making sure your child has had a good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast, wears comfortable clothing and uses the restroom before the test.
- Teach your kids the reality that test scores do not accurately assess their full academic ability.
- Remind your kids that standardized tests don’t measure other important things like intelligence, creativity, and compassion.
- If your child has a learning disability such as dyslexia, request accommodations such as extended time or to have the test read out loud to the student.
Good advice all around.
If you decide your children may benefit from taking standardized tests, you may order the following tests from Seton: the Stanford 10 test online, the IOWA-E, the CAT 6/Terra Nova 2, and the CAT Survey.
Smoot reminds parents and students that Seton sells test preparation guides for the SAT and ACT: The Princeton Review’s Cracking the PSAT, Cracking the SAT, and Cracking the ACT or The Official ACT Prep Guide, and The Official SAT Guide from The College Board.
Whatever you may decide about standardized tests, I encourage you to use preparatory books like these for the college entrance exams tests. They offer a myriad of tips about the tests themselves and how to do well on them, and the practice tests successfully recreate the actual exams the student will face.
A last thought from Felicity Smoot: She notes that scores on standardized tests tend to rise the more the students take them. She also encourages all students, not just the ones following the requirements of state law, to give these tests a try for the rewards they bring.
No more butterflies in the tummy, gang. Take the tests and strive for excellence.