Homeschoolers and Standardized Testing

When I was new to homeschooling, I asked the woman I considered my role model the question; “What about standardized testing?” Her answer to me was “I am effectively boycotting standardized tests”. Although I understood her answer, I scared me a little.

My friend had kids who were learning disabled. She wanted them to learn to their full potential without frustrating them and making them feel inferior by shoving standardized tests in their faces. At the same time however, in our state, standardized tests are mandatory. The children are required to take them at least every three years starting in the third grade, though not required to report them.

Her response scared me for several reasons. Having been raised in public and private schools, I was definitely addicted to rules. The thought of breaking one of these rules set panic in my heart. I knew that if she were ever accused of educational neglect that producing test scores would help in her defense. In addition, I wondered how she could truly know her children’s strengths and weaknesses.

In the article “Standardize Me” on, the writer, Yuliya Geikhman explores how standardized testing inhibits creative thinking. She gives the anecdote of asking her mother to help her with a paper and to express what she was trying to say. Her mother responds: “Never mind that, what does your teacher want you to say?” Although the writer was only three sentences into the essay at that point, she could have stopped there. That comment alone speaks volumes about the state of public education today.

Looking back on my own public school career, I can remember trying to get a science teacher to answer a “why” to a particular concept he was trying to teach. I pushed and I pushed because I understood my own mind, and knew that if it did not make sense, it would not stick. Frustrated beyond words, this usually kind man finally blurted out “WhyâÂ?¦ is not important, it just IS”. Funny, I do not even remember what the topic was.

Similarly, in one of my earlier jobs, I disagreed with a boss. Basically, what he was asking me to do was terribly inefficient and he did not appreciate me poking holes in his theory. This employer finally barked at me “you are not paid to think, you are paid to do”. The shock and disappointment on my face was apparent to the point that he later apologized. Nevertheless, at that moment in my life, I learned that once a rule is set, or a standard is made, stepping outside of that restriction will only cause trouble.

Standardized testing unfortunately does to kids what that boss and that well-meaning teacher did to me. It strips away the thirst for learning outside the required boundaries and takes away any ambition that displaying intelligence beyond normal boundaries will be appreciated. However, that is not all.

For a child who falls on the other side of standardized test scores, i.e. does poorly, these children are convinced they are stupid. They accept these test scores to be the true measure of their intelligence instead of the measure of their abilities to understand what they were taught in certain subjects. Even if they are taught in a way that is not conducive for them to learn, these kids cannot see beyond the fact that they did poorly. It is their fault. They are stupid.

As the author of Standardize Me stated, “Perhaps the fault (of a child’s failure or success) lies not in our standardized tests, but in the emphasis we put on them”. Without standardized tests, we would have no measure of what children as a whole are capable of learning in given subjects. As homeschoolers, in particular, we would not be aware of the fact that home schooled children out perform public school children on standardized tests. However, by putting standardized tests in their proper perspective, we would feel freer to delve deeper into subject matter and to explore none requires subjects in depth. With the restrictions that standardized test plays on homeschoolers in many cases, we are essentially as restricted as public schooled children are.

My friends refusal to impose standardized testing on her children, while it left her blind to their overall achievement, it freed her to encourage her children’s genius to develop and other areas. Her children, though learning disabled are musically, athletically and artistically gifted. Standardized testing ignores these achievements.

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