Debunking standardized test results

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.

Posted on 4 August '14 by , under Standardized testing, Testing. No Comments.

Testing time in Arkansas: Are you ready?

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.



Posted on 17 January '14 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Standardized testing, Testing. No Comments.

Gauging Success: Why Standardized Tests Miss the Mark

I am opposed to standardized testing for a number of reasons. It does not give an accurate picture of a student’s ability or progress. Some children, mine included, do not test well. For some reason when my youngest son knows there is a time limit on a test, he freezes. This is a talented and gifted child, yet if you were to look at his standardized tests score—you would think otherwise.


My youngest struggled with reading after I pulled him from a charter school. At that school, they grouped 1st grade students by reading ability. In his group—he was forced to read out loud. This was something that he was very uncomfortable with and when he struggled, the teacher allowed the other kids to make fun of my child. Now, entering the 8th grade, this still haunts him and I believe this is why he does not test well.


Standardize tests are supposed to show you where your child is academically as compared to other children of the same age and grade. But what happens to kids who have test anxiety? Their scores are low. Low scores can keep these kids from getting into gifted programs like the Duke Talent Identification Program.


So how should we judge a child’s progress? Use a record book system like 4-H. The record book tracks a child’s accomplishments, community service, awards, and projects over the course of five years. Why not apply this to the school system? The record book provides a much better picture of the child’s true ability. Although it would be difficult to use on a national level, maybe we need to get away from having a plethora of standardized tests that cannot be compared to each other and instead go to a record book format for tracking student progress. The record book should have a standard format, so it can be used by teachers even if a child changes schools.


Standardized tests just do not work. Public schools and the No Child Left Behind Act  created a “teach the test” atmosphere at most public schools. Teachers and administrators have been caught changing grades and some have been brought up on criminal charges. This is insane. What is needed is a way to accurately judge a student’s ability without having such high stakes.


This brings me to the topic at hand. If I ignore the standardized testing scores for my son, how do I judge where he is academically? He shows me in other ways how well he is doing. My two youngest children are very active in competitive shooting. One of the events, YHEC (Youth Hunter Educational Challenge), demands that the competitors take a written test as well as show mastery in wildlife identification, safety trail, compass and map skills, and mastery in shotgun, .22 rifle, archery, and muzzleloader.


My youngest, age 13, took 3rd place on the written test. Out of 190 kids in his division, he had the 3rd highest score. That is how I measure his success. He studied, he practiced and he performed well.


My next youngest is 18 and will be heading off to college in the fall. His goal is to become a biology specialist for Arkansas Game and Fish. He has plans to get a master’s degree in biology and possibly a doctorate. That is how I measure his success.


It is time to do away with a system that is not working. I would rather have my kids put together a record book highlighting their accomplishments over the last 5 years than have them subjected to standardized tests. Especially since the test results are arbitrary at best and they do not give you a good idea of where your child is academically—unless you have one of those rare kids who test really well.



Posted on 10 June '13 by , under Standardized testing. No Comments.

2012-2013 Homeschool Intent and Waiver Forms Available

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.



Posted on 3 June '12 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Cancer and homeschool, Testing. No Comments.

Testing Packets Go Out January 9, 2012

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.

Posted on 7 January '12 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Homeschooling 101, Testing. No Comments.

Are U.S. Schools Heading for Disaster?

Here is a link to an article I wrote for Associated Content. “Are U.S. Schools at Their Breaking Point?” We are lagging behind most other industrial nations.  NCLB needs to be undone. Standardized testing is promoting cheating among those who should know better. Teachers and administrators are changing kid’s tests in order to meet NCLB guidelines. The system is truly broken. Perhaps the nation’s educators should look to the homeschool community. We know what works.


Let me know what you think.


Posted on 12 July '11 by , under Educational scandals, Politics, Ramblings and Rumors. No Comments.

Testing Packets Have Been Mailed

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.


Posted on 12 February '11 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Testing. No Comments.

Goodbye Lincoln ACE for Elementary/Middle School

After an exhausting first quarter, we have decided to abandon the Lincoln ACE program for my youngest son who is in the 5th grade. The program this year is not working for us. Too rigid and too much emphasis on teaching to the benchmarks. I was told directly from my kids teacher-advisor (paper grader) that because he has not completed 25% of the curriculum to date he must focus on only spelling, math, language arts and literature. Science (which he loves), art and music will be set aside for now. Why? Because in Arkansas they only test on reading/language arts and math. So much for mastery, so much for work at your own pace. It has really become public school online. 

High school is another story. I need for my sophomore to be in Lincoln ACE for several reasons. It is working for him – for the most part. We finally got him into the Algebra 1 Odessy program although he is a full 8 weeks behind because Lincoln ACE had to work out technical problems. So for now, and probably for the rest of the school year we will remain in the online high school.

Still trying to get the school to send my oldest son’s transcripts to NWACC. Put in the request in May 2010, July 2010, and last I was told they were mailed from Lincoln to NWACC on October 8th. Still no record of the transcripts at NWACC. Asked not so nicely again today. So my kid’s college account is on hold until Lincoln ACE gets their act in gear. If this is not resolved soon, a phone call to the Department of Education may be required.

Keep reading. Follow our adventures with Teaching Textbooks for math, The Jason Project for Science, Wordly Wise for spelling/vocab and most likely Learning Language Arts through Literature for language arts. We have Meet the Masters for art, Discovery Streaming for everything and we will cover music from a variety of angles.

Stay tuned for our Jason Project adventures – science labs start tomorrow.  The focus is different forms of energy.


Posted on 21 October '10 by , under Homeschooling through high school, Lincoln Ace adventure, Online schools. 2 Comments.

Deadline to File Notice of Intent and Waiver Forms is August 15

Families planning to homeschool for the 2010-2011 school year are required to file a Notice of Intent and Waiver Form with the local Superintendent of School’s Office no later than midnight on August 15, 2010. According to Arkansas Homeschool Law, first time homeschoolers must hand deliver the forms to the office. Returning homeschoolers must mail the form or drop it off at the office.

Homeschooled students in grades 3 through 9 must take mandatory standardized tests every spring. Testing is free, the dates are as follows:

April 4 through 8, 2011.

April 11 through 15, 2011.

Testing packets will be sent out in February 2011. For more information see the Arkansas Testing Website.

Posted on 2 August '10 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Homeschooling 101. No Comments.

2010 mandatory testing information mailed to Little Rock homeschoolers

2010 mandatory testing information mailed to Little Rock homeschoolers

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Posted on 6 February '10 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Homeschooling 101. No Comments.

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