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.
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.
Previous: Key #1 – Filing Your Notice of Intent