By now, if you child took a standardized test in the spring, you should have the results back. Unlike a school test which gives either a letter grade or a percentage, standardized tests give several different grades. None of the numbers you see indicate a passing or failing grade. What do the numbers mean to you and your child if there is no pass/fail grade? You have to break down the numbers into meaningful information.
Understanding a norm-referenced test
The standardized test your child took is called a norm-referenced test. Norm-reference is a process that allows scores from all versions of a single test to be normalized into a meaningful score. For example if your child took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) test at the third grade level, and your child’s test was version B and another child in a different city took the same level test but had version A, the scores would be different. Some questions on one version may be somewhat more difficult than questions in a different version. In order to normalize (norm-reference) the scores so that they accurately reflect an even playing field, the scaled/standard score is used. Why Do Standardized Testing Programs Report Scaled Scores (Tan, et al,) explains in detail how testing companies derive scaled scores.
Your test results will include a page that shows the breakdown of each test component, and a composite score. For each part of the test, there are four scores; SS, GE, NPR, and NS. Each score has a different meaning.
SS is a standard/scaled score. This score gives the actual grade received on the test. You can use this grade to see if your child is making improvements from year to year. However, this score is only meaningful if you take the same test every year. There is a scale next to your score that shows the proficiency level of your child. Most kids test at a proficient level. Some will score above or below proficient. Use the sub-test scores to find areas where your child excels and where they need improvement.
GE is the grade equivalent score. It is shown as a decimal. This grade does not tell you the grade level for your child. For example, if your fifth-grader has a GE score of 9.2 in math, it means that a ninth-grader in the second month of the school year would be expected to get a similar score on the test your child took. If the score was 4.9, then it means that a fourth-grader in the ninth month of school would be expected to get the same score. Use the GE grade to see if your child is performing at grade level or not.
NPR is the national percentile rank. This score shows where your child ranks nationally as compared to others who took the same test. Most kids will get a score somewhere in the 50 percentile. A score of 50 percent means that 50 percent of all students who took the test scored at or below this score. A score of 25 percent means that only 25 percent of all students taking this test scored at or below this score. A score of 80 percent means that your child did better than 80 percent of all students taking the test.
NS stands for national stanine. This is a single digit number assigned to your child’s score. The higher the number–the better the score. Nine is close to a perfect score.
Still confused? The powerpoint presentation Iowa Test of Basic Skills: A quick overview of score interpretation, gives a really simple and visual explanation of how to interpret scores.
Using test scores
Test scores are useful in helping you determine where your child is academically. The sub-scores in math and English will show areas that need improvement and areas where your child does well. Use the scores to develop a curriculum for the upcoming year that is exactly tailored to your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Standardized tests are just a tool. Use them to help you find the best curriculum for your child.
Want to test privately this year? I am a certified test administrator for the Iowa and Stanford tests. I can administer tests for your homeschool groups or I administer tests individually. Another option would be to get a group together for testing. Here is a link to my profile. My certification comes from BJU Press.
Arkansas requires that all students in grades 3 through 9 take a norm-referenced standardized test every year. Parents can take the state provided tests at no charge, this option requires that you register for testing and you must go to the state testing site on the day and time you registered for. If you miss that test, you will have to find another option.
Arkansas also allows parents to choose which test their children take. This is the private option. Using a test administrator like myself is one option for ordering and administering a test. Another option is to use one of the testing services listed in the information packet that should be sent out by the end of February. There is a fee for private testing, no matter which test options you choose. Parents must pay for the test and many times for the test administration.
Certain students with disabilities may be exempt from testing. You should carefully read what is required in order to be exempt. Most testing sites can accommodate minor test modifications.
Once testing packets are sent out by the state, I will update this page.
Sorry this is later than it should be. Cancer seems to be all consuming some days. The good news is that I am done with chemo and I can finally look to returning to a somewhat normal life.
The 2012-2013 Notice of Intent and Waiver forms are available. You can access the forms on the right sidebar. Fill out the forms and send them in no later than August 15, 2012.
If your student is driving this year, make a copy of the form and get the copy notarized. Take the notarized copy to DMV when your student applies for a permit or driver’s license.
Grades three through nine have mandatory testing. You can test your child for free at a local state site in April or you can test privately.
The Arkansas Home School Testing Department is mailing out registration packets to homeschool families starting on January 9, 2012. If you registered as a homeschool prior to December 15, 2011, your packet is in the January 9th mailing. If you started homeschooling after December 15th, your packet will be mailed as soon as the testing office receives your information.
Who has to test?
Any child in grades 3 through 9 is required to take an annual standardized test. If you are a registered homeschooler in Arkansas, you will receive a testing packet in the mail. Packets are mailed to families with children withing the mandatory testing grades. Once you get the packet, you can register for testing.
What are my testing options?
You have the choice of taking the test at a state sponsored location. This option is free, but once you register for a specific location it cannot be changed. If you miss the test, the testing office will contact you. If you skip out on the testing, you can be facing truancy charges.
Another option is to test with a certified homeschool group. This option is also free and the consequences for not testing are the same.
The third option is to test privately. You pay to obtain the test and you are responsible for administering it properly. There are several companies that offer testing. To use this option, a copy of your paid invoice must be submitted to the testing office. This option gives you the most flexibility and if you kids is sick on the scheduled date, you can put off the test for a day or two without any negative consequences.
Kids with special needs
You can request that your child be excused from testing. Proof of a disability or other issues must be submitted to the testing office. You will need a physicians report or other official report to back up your request.
Public School Online
If you are using an online charter school such as ARVA or Lincoln ACE, the school will provide the required testing. Students in these programs do not have the option of testing with homeschoolers and they do not have the option to test privately. Testing packets will not be mailed to parents if their children are enrolled in one of the online charter schools.
For more information, contact the Arkansas Testing Department.
I have been following SB774 also known as the “Tim Tebow” bill. This bill, if passed, will allow Arkansas homeschoolers to participate in public school sports and activities. Right now, homeschoolers cannot participate in public school sports or any activity governed by the Arkansas Athletic Association.
Amendment number 1 was withdrawn on March 16, 2011. Amendment number 2 was adopted, read and reported as correctly engrossed and sent back to the Education Committee.
I have an issue with amendment number 2. It changed the wording on page 2, line 36 to the following:
“Demonstrate educational progress by scoring at grade-level or above on a norm-referenced standardized test in mathematics, English, science and social studies, each semester that the student participates in an interscholastic activity;”
The above wording could mean that homeschoolers who want to participate in sports on a public school team will be subject to standardized testing every semester that they want to participate in sports. Additionally, the bill requires testing in subjects other than math and English, something that public school kids are not subjected to.
I think that this is putting way too much regulation on homeschoolers. Currently homeschoolers in grades 3 through 9 take standardized tests in math and English. The state of Arkansas pays for this testing. If homeschoolers are supposed to test every semester if their kids want to participate in interscholastic activities then the state should pay for the additional testing and public school students should have to be subjected to the same requirements.
Let me know what you think
Testing packets have been mailed to all registered homeschool families who have students in grades 3 through 9. The packets were mailed out on February 8th and you should have them by now. If you have not yet received your packet contact the testing office.
As always there are several options that will meet mandatory testing.
1) Register to have your child take the test at one of the many test centers. This option is free, the state of Arkansas provides the testing materials.
2) Test with an approved local homeschool group. There is no fee for this option.
3) Test through one of the three approved outside agencies: Seton Home Study School; Bob Jone University; or Brewer Testing Services.
4) Qualify for an exemption. This is usually reserved for students with learning disabilities.
This year you can register for testing online. You will need the information off of the green sheet in the testing packet that was sent to you in the mail. If you are using an outside agency for testing, the white form must be filled out an emailed or snail mailed in with the proper paperwork. For families claiming an exemption, documentation supporting the reason for the exemption must be mailed in to the office. The last day to register for testing is March 7, 2011. Testing sites will not have extra materials and will not admit students who did not register.
The dates for the PSAT/NMSQT are October 13 and October 16, 2010. High school juniors wanting to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship must take the test in their Junior Year. Arkansas homeschoolers are eligible to compete in the National Merit Scholarship. For a homeschooler to take the test, they must contact a local high school to make testing arrangements. The cost of the test is $13.00. Student should register no later than October 1, 2010. For more information see the NMSQT website. High school sophomores may want to take the test as a practice run. After the scores are received, students can get a free assessment through the college board website. The assessment will point out areas of strengths and areas of weakness so the student can get a better idea of where they should focus their studying. It is a free service for anyone who takes the test.
Students should prepare for this test in the same manner that they would prepare for the SAT or ACT test. Members of the Home School Legal Defense Association can get an SAT or ACT practice course for free.
The Home School Buyers Co-Op has great discounts on Kaplan’s ACT and SAT prep courses. Just go to their website and look under the testing and assessment link.