Meeting the standardized testing requirement for NC homeschools

Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers in North Carolina

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You made the decision to homeschool, and you filed your Notice of Intent. You may have even sailed through your first year of homeschooling! But before you take that summer break, make sure you get in your annual standardized testing! In this article (part 3 of a 4-part series on keeping your homeschool legal in NC), we’ll look at what is required, how to find a test, and what it means – and doesn’t mean! – for your homeschool.

Meeting the standardized testing requirement for NC homeschools

Key #2 to legal homeschooling in North Carolina is meeting the standardized testing requirement!

To some homeschoolers, standardized testing is a piece of public schooling they’d prefer to leave behind. The bad news is that it is required by law. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be stressful for you or your children!

Because laws, and testing, have changed over the years, you may have heard lots of different things about what tests are acceptable and what aren’t. Perhaps you have some bad memories of broken #2 pencils and bubble sheets swimming before your eyes. Children coming out of public schools might dread their annual standardized testing if EOGs weren’t a great experience for them.

I want to assure you, homeschool standardized testing can be SO much easier than all that!

Let’s begin by looking at the homeschool laws that apply to standardized tests.

Just a reminder that this is my explanation based on years’ experience homeschooling in North Carolina. Please note my Terms and Conditions, and that you can read the DNPE’s own page on homeschooling for the most complete and accurate information.

What the law says

The statute governing homeschools in North Carolina can be hard to follow. The Division of Non-public Education does a good job of providing links throughout their website. There are three sections of code pertaining to annual standardized testing.

G.S. 115C-549 says

…testing requirements in G.S. 115C-549 and G.S. 115C-557 shall be on an annual basis.

So, naturally, we’ll look at G.S. 115C-549 and G.S. 115C-557. These are the same, except that one pertains to religious schools and the other to non-religious. (You’ll remember selecting one of these designations when you filed your Notice of Intent. Here you can see that the designation makes no difference to your requirements unless you’re trying to decide which particular section of code to cite somewhere. And why you’d ever have to do that, I don’t know!)

Each [school] shall administer, at least once in each school year, a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement selected by the chief administrative officer of such school, to all students enrolled or regularly attending grades three, six and nine. The nationally standardized test or other equivalent measurement selected must measure achievement in the areas of English grammar, reading, spelling and mathematics. Each school shall make and maintain records of the results achieved by its students. For one year after the testing, all records shall be made available, subject to G.S. 115C-174.13, at the principal office of such school, at all reasonable times, for annual inspection by a duly authorized representative of the State of North Carolina. (1979, c. 505; 1981, c. 423, s. 1; 1987, c. 738, s. 180(b); 2004-199, s. 30(a).)

In other words…

The first quote tells us that the reference in the second to “grades three, six and nine” will not pertain to homeschools. We must test “at least once in each school year” for every grade once a student is registered in our homeschools. A question often arises as to whether your 5/6 year-old would need to be tested. If that child is registered in your homeschool, then yes. This is one reason why I recommend not filing a Notice of Intent, or adding additional students to your official homeschool record, until they reach the compulsory age of 7. Children that young just shouldn’t have to deal with testing.

In the second quote, we get valuable information about what the test must cover, what the scoring must take into account, and that you need to keep a record of the test for one year.

Don’t panic about that inspection part! I’ll tell you more about inspections in post #4 of this series.

Finding a test for your children

First, let me state something that might be obvious but often trips people up: you don’t need to use the same test for every child in your homeschool! If one child gets too easily distracted in front of the computer, but another doesn’t, save yourself some time and energy and use a paper test for one and an electronic test for another! Certainly, if you have a child with special needs, you may want a different test for them.

In the same way that you do with curriculum, you can meet the needs of each child when it comes to testing!

You can see a partial list of tests as well as test vendors at DNPE’s website, but here are a few options I have used and recommend.

    1. Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test

      The WJ must be given by a certified test administrator. While taking this test, your child sits down one-on-one (usually) with a test proctor. Some of the questions are written, but a good portion of the test is given orally. This was ideal for us when one of my children was having difficulty with writing skills. The downside of this test is that it is pricey by comparison, but a good test administrator will be able to guide you toward curriculum and other bits of help that will exactly meet your child’s needs.
      I used Triangle Education Assessments, and I highly recommend their services. You can read more about the Woodcock-Johnson test on their website.

      Another testing service that I recommend in eastern North Carolina is ATC Educational Services. While you’re on their website, check out the Learning Style Profile and Personal Success Profile that will help you uncover your child’s learning style!

    2. California Achievement Test (CAT)

      The CAT is a basic multiple-choice test is a basic multiple-choice battery of standardized testing. It can be taken online or on paper, timed or un-timed. After 3 years of Woodcock-Johnson testing (I preferred to use the same test for a few years consecutively for consistency in judging progress), I was satisfied I could judge what was working for my children and what wasn’t. I switched to this less-expensive, self-administered test. I have been using the online testing from Academic Excellence for several years now. The results are delivered instantly to my email. What some find appealing about this testing company is that you can print out a “Certificate of Completion” which shows that you have completed the testing as required without having to keep scores that you might not deem important to your homeschool.

      Click here to order a CAT test from AcademicExcellence.com and get $5 off your first purchase of $10 or more!

    3. IOWA Tests of Basic Skills (Grades K-8)

      The IOWA Test is another common test used by homeschoolers. It can be administered on paper at home if the school administrator (that’s you) has at least a B.A. degree. A different form of the test can be taken electronically at home or at a testing center.
      I recommend the IOWA for 8th graders who might want to qualify for a homeschool chapter of the National Honor Society or other such organization. They require the test to be taken in a group environment. Many co-ops or NHS chapters will offer such opportunities. Alternatively, Triangle Education Assessments offers group testing.

 

What those tests mean

Here’s one of the best-kept secrets in NC homeschooling: nobody – not even you – ever needs to see your child’s test results!

They don’t have to mean anything if you don’t want them to, or they could mean a great deal about how you direct your homeschool to fill gaps or jump ahead.

Now, if the results are the only proof you have that your child completed the test and their completed test was scored, then you need to have those results on hand in your records for at least one year. But if you know where your child is with their learning, and you don’t care how they measure up to a nation of public schools, just print them for your records and forget about it!

To be successful at homeschooling, you need a way to plug into where your child is academically. For some, this is by watching daily work or development. For others, it’s measuring against a standard like annual testing. And there are countless other ways as well.

The bottom line is, we legally have to administer these tests.

Get the best test for your child.

Use the information gained from the test if it’s meaningful to you.

Keep proof of testing in your records for at least one year after the test.

 

Do you have any more questions about testing? Please contact me and let me know how I can help!

I’ve mentioned that you need to keep your Notice of Intent and your testing records handy. So let’s move on now and talk about what record-keeping is required in North Carolina.

Next: Key #3: Keeping Your Homeschool Records

Previous: Key #1 – Filing Your Notice of Intent

 

33 thoughts on “Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers in North Carolina”

  1. Hi,
    I am deciding on Homeschooling my Granddaughter due to her Mental illness that has just gotten out of hand. She has been hospitalized three times in the last month. The school she is in is wonderful;however, after this last suicide threat. I feel they are a little uneasy as I am . I feel much better at having her home and less stressed. This is also the Doctors recommendations.
    My biggest concern is …
    One– Do I need to send my granddaughter back to school until I receive email that my homeschool is legal and official?
    Two–I am not sure what it means by circumulum? Can I use books, Technology,Parent directed activities,Field trips that are educational..Crafts and arts,Nature, Is that kind of what it is asking? Sorry?
    Three– My granddaughter has always been in a small contained class. Its called EC classes. Do I need to get special programs for her to go by as well as test that will be beneficial?
    Fourth–How do I start almost immediately . My granddaughter just go out of a mental facility for the third time in less than a month ..I don’t want her getting any further behind ,Plus I am concerned about her going back to the public school so soon.
    If you dont mind can you please help me with this information.
    Thank you so much for your time

    Brenda Trivette

    1. Hello Brenda! I will email you so we can explore the details here and answer your specific questions.

      You’re taking a brave step, but you can do this! We’ll get you up and running.

  2. My name is Brandi and I am new just homeschool my 8th grade son in North Carolina I sent my letter of intent got my certificate with school ID, I’m now trying to find a curriculum and the test standards if you could help me please thank you

    1. Hello, Brandi!

      I would be happy to help you! I will email you and we’ll set up an appointment.

      Have a great weekend!
      Laina

  3. Evelyn & Robert Davidson

    We live in Marshall, NC. Our 7 year old grandson has Autism. He is quite capable of doing his schoolwork if given the proper guidance. He has been home schooled since the Covid outbreak. My wife took him to the school today for testing. The special needs teacher did not want my wife to give him any direction. He started stimming because he did not understand her directions. Other than that, he has been doing great with virtual school getting A grades. If given some prompting for better understanding of the work required, he does great; but as I mentioned, the special needs teacher did not allow for this. We are wondering if you could help set us in the right direction as we are looking at pulling him from school next year and teaching him at home. My wife and I are quite capable of moving him forward as we both have our Master’s. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Hello, i am new to homeschooling; started in Mid October due to COVID and my child was not progressing with the virtual school program. Do you know if due to the pandemic and all the ups and downs with schools in NC (all over)… if there will be any leniency towards homeschooling families who will be returning to regular public schools next fall? For example, are we still required to test? Also, how do I go about with Progress Reports?? Help! Thank you!

    1. Hello there! Well, there has been no “official” word from anyone on how schools will deal with homeschoolers returning to classrooms next year. In NC, it’s up to each individual principal. By and large, they’ve always been pretty accepting and admit kids by age to the appropriate grade level, sometimes testing for correct placement in math, reading, and writing. High school is slightly more complicated, and I wouldn’t expect as much flexibility there. I would recommend doing a simple end of year test like the CAT to have in your own record. Many, if not most, homeschoolers don’t generally issue progress reports of any kind until they need to start keeping a high school transcript.

  5. Hello I looked up the cat test I went to put in his grade level 1st grade but only saw second grade and up do u know of a grade 1 test I can let him do from home. Also do I have to wait for the intent to go through before I can withdrawal him from school

    1. Hello Alycia! For the CAT test, if you’re obtaining it from Academic Excellence, you would use the test of the grade your child is going into next year, so you would choose 2nd grade. And yes, you will need to wait for your email from DNPE to withdraw if your son is 7 or very close to 7.

  6. Hello! I am going to begin homeschooling my five years old son! I see I do not need to worry with tests or intent to h/s until he is seven, so what do I need to do? Just keep records of course but idk what else and want to make sure I am doing all I need to do!

    1. Hello!
      Welcome to the world of homeschooling! 🙂 You’re off to a great start!
      There are no requirements for a 5-year-old, not even records. It’s all up to what you want to do with it and what you want out of it! Set your goals, make a plan, and HAVE FUN!
      At 5, to lay the groundwork for a fulfilling homeschool experience, make sure you set your son up for success. Give him attainable tasks, celebrate the wins and his learning, and follow his curiosity. He doesn’t need to be reading and writing every day, just learning, exploring and appreciating the fact that he has the ability and the support to understand the world around him.
      Enjoy!
      Laina

  7. Hello! Is there a test you recommend for a child with special needs who technically just finished first grade but is developmentally closer to a 4/5 year old? She has a very short attention span and struggles with sitting for long periods of time to do any amount of work. I’m overwhelmed with all of the options and am just not sure which test to choose.

    1. Hi there! I would look into a Woodcock Johnson test. It’s really the best for accomodations. And a good test administrator might even have other recommendations!
      If you’re in eastern NC, you can check out Triangle Education Assessments or ATCEd for a tester near you.

  8. Hi Laina!!! First off you’re awesome I’ve come to your website several times and I’ve always gotten some help from your advice to others and I’m really appreciative of that oh, and I would love to make a donation!
    I emailed .y question. Feel free to place it here if you feel it may help.

    1. I did not realize testing was required! We are going on 2 years without testing! What should I do? I’m terrified now. I have 2 that should have taken 2 tests already! Will I go to jail? A close family member told me how to withdraw and they actually set my homeschooling up for me, but never mentioned testing!

      1. Hi there, Kris!

        I totally understand why this new info would be worrisome, but no need to panic. Proof of testing only needs to be kept in your homeschool for one year. So 2 years ago is pretty much irrelevant at this point. Now is a good time to do one and get it on the books so you can breathe easier. It can also help you regroup midyear and review anything your kids might have struggled with before moving on, right?
        Then you’re done for this school year. Next school year (which is 7/1/22 to 6/30/23), you can repeat in January or any time of the school year you want. You’re not stuck testing in January just because you did it in January for ’21-’22, ok?
        Audits of homeschool records are generally voluntary. You can read more about that here: https://trianglehomeschoolresources.com/homeschooling-helps/homeschool-records-review-faq/
        So no need to fear! Feel free to find me on FB or WhatsApp if you want to message about this, ok?
        https://m.me/trianglehomeschoolresources

    1. Hi Alicia! I’m so sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner. But to answer your question, no, there are no free options. The least expensive is the CAT from AcademicExcellence, and they run several sales per year, so you can get it for about $15 per student. Hope that helps!

  9. hi should i use standford 10 at grade level or the actual grade they are completing on homeschool. Example fourth grader by county but completed 5th grade math and LA in homeschool..test standford spring level4 or 5? thank you kindly

    1. I would recommend using the level that is age-appropriate. So if they’d be in 4th grade in public school, just the fourth grade test. You’re not going to get much different information from the results of just one level off, so it’s better to not frustrate them.

  10. Hello , we started homeschooling our 9th grade daughter in August . Our home school was officially opened on 07/23/2021.
    What type of standardized test do you recommend and when should she take it? Thank you!

    1. Hi there!
      The best thing would be to try to get the test in before the official end of school year, which is June 30. At the high school level, you can seek out an Iowa test from a homeschool group local to you, especially if they have an opportunity for a National Honor Society connection. Or you can go an easier route with a CAT at home. No stress, at your own pace kind of thing
      Hope that helps!

  11. Hi there! This is my second year testing and I have a 5th grader. Is she required to take the science test that all 5th graders are required to take now?

    1. The standardized test requirement for homeschoolers in NC is the same every year. In other words, whatever test you used last year, you can use the next grade level of the same test this year.

  12. Anita Johnson

    Does my 9th grader have to take a science EOG I usually give the SAT which is only math and ela?

    1. Hi Anita! Sorry for the delay on the reply. Standardized testing for homeschoolers in NC is not the same as EOGs in our state. Your 9th grader needs to take the same kind of standardized test that every homeschool student must take every year as listed on this page, and yes, those only test math, spelling, etc. Note that the SAT only fulfills the legal requirement IF the essay portion is included.

  13. What an informative page! I am considering a move to NC from Texas, where I have been “unschooling” my son for a couple years. Texas has no regulations, which works well for us as my son’s dyslexia and anxiety do not pair well with testing. I understand NC requires tests but I’m not seeing minimum grades for the tests-is there a pass fail system? I think the online ones would work best for him as he has social anxiety that makes him clam up with new people.

    1. Hello Candice! There are no minimum scores required when the tests are taken. The state only requires that the test gets done. You don’t turn the scores into anyone, and no evaluation is made based on them. So, yes, an online CAT would probably suit your son best.

      Hope that helps!

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