In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I shared a bit about testing your homeschooled students using standardized tests. These tests are great for giving a big picture of where your student stands academically to other students. Bubble tests are limited in the information they provide, but might give you cause to further examine a particular area.
You may find that a full standardized test is entirely too much of a time and money investment if you are looking just for a quick assessment in one area, such as reading. Fortunately, there are various assessment options for the 3Rs available on the internet, many for free.
For starters, you may consider contacting your local school district and ask them to send you a copy of their scope and sequence for a specific grade level or subject. You can then compare their benchmarks to the level of your child. Or, you can search online for comparison.
All Subjects, Categorized
Some of the below links have a listing of standards and some have actual tests for subjects available for download to administer.
Oregon Department of Education
California Content Standards K-12, categorized by grade and subject
Michigan Meap Tests Grades 3-5
Internet for Classrooms
Rubrics for Teachers
Many suppliers of math curriculum have assessments for you to determine what level of curriculum you should purchase. A few are:
Math Mammoth placement tests for Grades 1-5
Singapore placement tests
Teaching Textbooks placement tests
K12 math placement test
Keep in mind that different programs cover different material at different times. This may mean that your student tests as the 3rd grade level with one curriculum and 4th with another. It could be a reflection of a curriculum that has higher standards than others. It could also signify that your current curriculum isn't up to snuff or that your child is struggling with the material. Either way, these sort of tests will give you both an idea of where your child stands with the subject and what level to purchase should you decide on that curriculum.
K12 language arts placement test
Reading level is always the biggest worry with young kids. Aside from looking on the back cover of the books your child is reading for the recommended ages/level, there are plenty of quick reading assessments available online.
A-Z Home's Cool
Schonell Reading Test
Liverpool Reading Estimator
Mindplay Reading Assessment
Many assume that children reading at a certain level should also be spelling at the same level. This is often not the case. Determining spelling grade level is as simple as testing from various grade level spelling tests. Below are a couple options.
All About Spelling Spelling Lists
One area that is usually difficult to assess for homeschooling parents is writing. Writing can be rather subjective and sometimes expectations are skewed by the experience with earlier children. I have one child that is very strong with writing and another who is weak in that area. I really have no idea what is typical at any age. One of the best sources of information I've found to get an idea of where your elementary child stands in the area of writing is from Oregon's Department of Education. Writing samples and scoring are provided for grades 3, 5, 6, and 8.
For older children, I would suggest looking at some of the writing samples and scoring from the ACT and SAT tests.
As you can see, there are plenty of free options available on the internet for you to get an idea of where your children might stand according to outside standards. For those that would prefer something with more official results, you may want to consider Let's Go Learn. Both reading and math assessments are available through Let's Go Learn at very reasonable prices. For one of my children that struggled with reading and spelling, I used the Dora Reading Assessment every 6-12 months to gauge progress in the elementary years.
If you feel you need to test your child in order to answer the question, "Are your kids keeping up with peers?" from an academic standpoint, there are certainly a variety of options available, from full-scale standardized tests to quick subject assessments. I covered testing options at length because many want concrete, leveled answers. However, I'm not so sure this is the best way to answer this question. In my next post, I will be moving away from testing and on to a different perspective.
Other posts on this topic: