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.
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.
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!
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!
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
44 thoughts on “Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers in North Carolina”
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
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.
I just wanted to let you know that not only are you NOT alone, but I regularly have parents and grandparents share their own situations that are comparable to ours—and yours!
My son was expelled from a pricey Christian School in 2021 for suicidal threats and since my mother still had legal custody, NO ONE TOLD my husband or I. I’ll skip ahead to the present as I hope it can give you hope, as I struggle with feeling less-thwn because of MS and being economically challenged… I see YouTube videos about complicated curriculum, regular field trips and all kinds of extras that other parents do and it is SO easy to compare ourselves but since both my 11year old and I are both healing from trauma (it took me 48 years and seeing my own son in emotional pain for me to realize JUST how toxic she was, but that is another story).
Basically, last year I’d ordered from. The same company I was taught with in the 90’s because there are 12 booklets per subject, all included and works at the students on pace. Unless a Christian based curriculum is not conducive, I highly recommend the P.A.C.E. system for anyone starting out. However l, this year we couldn’t afford that, plus my son is ADHD and on the autism spectrum as well as struggling with depression and feeling all around sad/angry after years of feeling unheard. Whike he’s doing well now, in the Fall I fell down a rabbit-hole of info on YouTube BUT we have really focused on learning life-skills and healing techniques. “How to ADHD” is a wonderful YouTuber who taught us the Pomodoro method, and I just use it as an example cause it made my Jwckson feel empowered when we approached academics with newly found perspective of ADHD being a super-power rather than an obstacle. (We alternate between 20 min of focused work followed by a 10 min break) —a timer that shows how long is remaining was the real key to it!
YouTube, like any other tool, can be both detrimental as well as incredibly useful. In fact, this year, I curate about 2 hours of videos each day into a playlist/folder of various topics. Three months ago he fell in love with an old typewriter at thrift store, so we watched how to clean & repair one and then MADE a video about details that typewriters have & likely unknown to his generation.
I know it’s often a crapshoot as to what will interest him, but since we homeschool, I am happy to drop everything and let him learn to animate one day or find out what else (besides dandelion greens) are locally in season & edibke and spend the afternoon “foraging.”
While my heart still hurts when he talks about how hopeless he had felt at only 9 years one and seemingly NOONE heard it believed him… I now see it as an opportunity to spend precious time with my only child and to teach him coping skills that studies continue to show how few mental health resources are available for kids, even WITH insurance, and how our kiddos need it more then ever.
I belive the best way ti teach our kids is by example. Unfortunately he learned to stuff down feeling of uselessness & general shame from observing my relationship with his grandmother, BUT unlike me, he is now free and able to start healing and replacing destructive emotions & self-doubt with healthy habits & accepting ALL aspects of himself.
Not very long ago, my empathetic boy witnessed his mother at a physical, mental & emotional rock-bottom. For me, it was getting real with my personal relationship with the Lord, and I don’t intend to use this comment to preach—only I feel called to share what worked for me ad I’m far from alone and in fact we now CELEBRATE our uniqueness (and I honestly think we are closer to “normal” than social media seems to purport!
While I can’t undo my sons painful experiences as a result of being witness to many Mia-steps on my part… But he’s ALSO witnessed an ongoing transformation that included addiction, self-harm, narcissistic abuse, isolation, bullying, fear & shame. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight but it was a culmination of tiny steps that Walter the hardest to make and almost impossible to describe even a year later. I think this last year was far more valuable in teaching him the kind of life-skills rarely offered on traditional school and we will get to the multiplication tables and sentence diagramming soon… i struggle with feeling “behind” and even still judged, but in that I see lessons as well: He has a new found confidence in himself & has learned he can trust me.
One last tip: I often remind him that I don’t ask him to do anything I’m not willing to do. He sees me watch the news & get frustrated at the division in our country. But though he’s only 11, he knows what it really means to live in a democracy and the differences between that and a republic: He heard a comparison to Hitler, so we watched videos about what part fascism played in the history of our world. Ignorance & fear has led to some horrid displays of violence in our country that has made it hard sometimes to have hope for the world he will inherit. But not only do I not have to fear if he will see it firsthand in public school, I’m grateful to be able to empower with an education unavailable to most kids. He saw me vote and he sees me budget for groceries and learn to compost veggies I forgot on the back of the fridge. He sees me struggle and fail, yes. But he also sees how despite it all, his father and I choose to help others who similarly struggle. Last month, he saw me really struggle with some anger issues & lose my temper. But he saw first-hand how it drove me to really buckle down and memorize scripture and share in group therapy ti improve. But it led to a conversation about recovery. I asked him if he was more likely to develop a daily habit of Bible-Study & prayer from his grandmother TELLING him it was the right thing to do or by seeing what a difference it made in my own life when I began doing so. He is the son of an addict and an alcoholic so is likely to struggle similarly one day. I’m so glad my boy has seen first-hand how a broken-ness isn’t final. Any life can be redeemed & it’s never too late. And how not only do I not live in shame of past decisions (“consequences of actions” was hammered into my head much more than forgiveness, kindness & compassion) on his own he realizes that it’s BECAUSE of my journey and resulting scars that I have a unique ability to help others in the very same state I once inhabited.
I’m sorry for babbling on an on, but I feel a sort of calling to encourage others to find ways to re-frame obstacles into opportunities! We can turn back time, but we can give our kiddos a safe place to speak their fears and hopes. I think what my son has learned homeschool these past 18 months is so much more valuable than academics. And there’s no “right way” for everyone. I think it can be more valuable to see parental figures struggle and even fail sometimes. Watching us ask for help when needed and learning to recover/nurture ourselves can lead to more happiness in life than memorizing state capitals! (We will get to that… but first I wanna unwrap this new kite I got at Dollar Tree cause the wind is rarely this strong and I have some physics ti teach!)
What standardized test does a 2nd grade have to take? I’m not able to find the information
Some of the options are outlined in the article above. You can find the full list of allowable tests at https://ncadmin.nc.gov/public/home-school-information/home-school-requirements-recommendations/
I would recommend a CAT for 2nd grade: https://academicexcellence.com
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
I would be happy to help you! I will email you and we’ll set up an appointment.
Have a great weekend!
Hi there! I am new to the homeschool world! If you could please email me! I have a few questions! Thanks so much!
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.
Hello Robert! I’m so sorry for the delay in replying. Let’s set up an appointment to chat and see if I can help you get an official homeschool set up that will support your grandson. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hey there! We are new to the homeschool world! I have some questions if you don’t mind emailing me! Thanks so much.
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!
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?
Hello momma! Valuable information here. Thank you! Are there any free standardized testing option?
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!
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
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
Does my 9th grader have to take a science EOG I usually give the SAT which is only math and ela?
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.
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.
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!
Hello Laina! You certainly provide a lot of helpful information. My rising 5th grader took the 4th grade CAT, should she take the 5th grade CAT (we are going to attempt to re-enroll, she was in the AIG program prior to COVID). Thanks in advance for your help!
Hi! When should we expect to receive the results of the National Standardized Test? The woman tutoring our 2 kids is saying she still doesn’t have the results. If the kids were tested in May, shouldn’t she have the results?
Thanks for your help!
Hello! There are several tests and several testing companies. I would reach out to the testing provider to see what the delay is. Were they paper tests? Or were they done online?
At the beginning of 2021-2022 school year I switched my kids from NCVA to Acellus. This is what is confusing to me. They are in an online self paced school which gives them mid-term and end of class exams for all subjects. Do I still need to administer an EOG and EOC? One is finishing 4th, 6th, and 9th. Thank you.
Hi! Well, not exactly. You do have to give a standardized test annually but they are not the same as EOG/EOCs. The test the state requires us to give has to be a nationally-normed standardized exam. You can find a list of links to tests that meet this requirement in the post above.
Hi! I have a 10th grader in NC. Should he continue taking the CAT test as he has for previous years, or does he need to take a different test? Not sure when he should take the SAT or ACT (whichever one comes first). I understand what to do up to the point of high school, but after that I’m lost in the testing world. Also, if you don’t mind, what test should he take in 11th and 12 as well? Thank you for your time
Hello! Yes, the CAT is a good option for all grades. In fact, neither the SAT nor the ACT meets the requirement for the annual test unless the essay portion is given, and I’m not sure that’s available anymore. So you can sign up for those tests for college admissions, but you still have to do a CAT or another from the state’s list.
We are a military family. I want to homeschool my son (third grade-8 years old). The public school near my house only use technology to teach not textbooks. HELP.
Hi this is my first year homeschool, at what time of the year is best to give my child their standardized test and for example my daughter is in the grade 2nd, do I give her a standardized test for grade 3 at the end of the school year?
Hi! You can do the test at whatever time you want. Most do it at the end of the year so they can know how to plan better for the following school year. And what level test to give depends on the particular test and provider. If you’re doing the CAT from Academic Excellence and your daughter is finishing 2nd grade, then yes, you’d give the 3rd grade level test. But that might not be true for an IOWA or a PASS or some other test form.