By Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
The requirement in Minnesota is for “annual” testing and does not specify a time of year. And it doesn’t mean every school year either. If you tested in 2013, you just need to test sometime in 2014 to fulfill your requirement. You can choose what works best for you. I encourage you to consider your options beyond spring testing. And if you tested last spring, you can push this year’s testing to fall 2014 or even December! Read on!
Depending on the test you are planning to use, there can be "in season" and "off season" pricing. Off season testing can cost more with the testing companies, and the scores may be delayed compared to testing during the company's busy time. With Peabody testing there is no price difference with any testers I know and it’s still scored immediately.
Many homeschoolers test in the spring because it's what we grew up with in the public school system. It’s a habit or tradition that we have carried over into our homeschooling for no good reason. As a Peabody tester for 15+ years now, I have seen the difference it can make to test at other times of the year. I actually preferred to test my children in the fall so that I had some measure of what had been forgotten over the summer months and could plan a quick review as we got started. I liked to see the test as a starting point, not a finish line. It was nice to determine what skills and information “stuck” and what had faded over the summer. It also took the pressure of “finish line” or end of the year testing off of all of us.
Some families like winter testing (Nov thru Feb) as a chance to identify areas that might benefit from renewed focus with the remainder of your school year. If your student scores far above grade level in math, but below grade level in spelling, you still have a few months to shift gears and bump up the spelling work. This can also make sense if you’re trying a new curriculum. Mid-year testing can create a way to evaluate how well the curriculum is fitting with each student’s needs, and if it’s a bad fit, you still have time to take a different path for the remainder of your year.
Other families like summer testing because their co-op is on break, and other lessons and activities are more relaxed. The schedule eases and there’s time to fit testing into the mix. I also think it makes sense to test after the kids have been away from their studies for a bit (right after your Christmas break or even midsummer) as then the scores can show you what material “stuck” and what quickly faded during the break. This is a helpful planning tool when deciding what to review as you get started again and lets you tailor your efforts to each child’s actual needs.
I would actually raise the issue that spring in the least useful time for homeschoolers to test. You will simply file those scores away and by the next fall, they won’t be accurate anymore. And, Spring in Minnesota is a busy time and a homeschooler's fancy turns to outdoor pursuits, sports, theater and other calendar cramming activities that make it difficult to set aside the time needed to pull off several hours of testing (for pencil tests) or to schedule a Peabody tester and have all the kids in one place.
The Peabody scoring uses quarterly norms, so the kids are compared with scores for that same time of year. Your child’s scores aren’t being compared to students who have already completed that grade if you’re testing in December. This gives you complete flexibility about testing.
So, ultimately, you can decide what works best for your family and your schedule.
A couple other clarifications on testing. Your child will be required to test for the first time during the school year that began on Oct 1, after the child turned 7. If your child wasn’t 7 yrs old already on Oct 1 of this school year, he/she doesn’t need to test this year. (I have a whole other write up on why not to test underage kiddos—so please read that if you are considering testing a 5 or 6 yr old). If your older student is going to be taking the EXPLORE, PLAN or ACT in the fall, they don’t need to do spring testing this year. That fall testing will meet the requirement for this year. There’s another write up on testing options for junior hi and senior hi students, so check that out for more info. Also, if your student was 17 on Oct 1 of this school year, the testing requirement no longer applies. But you’ll be busy with college entrance stuff, so don’t worry about the gap in your schedule.
It’s fine to test for your own reasons, but my general advice is don’t waste your money on non-required testing. There are other ways to assess your child’s skill set. And better ways to spend your money!