Question: Why in the world would you suggest that home school children take an assessment? The whole reason most parents left public school was every two minutes I heard the word assess!– The Feisty Home Educator
Dear Feisty Home Educator,
Not just as a parent, but as an educator with over ten years of service in the public education setting, I completely understand your concern when you hear the word assessment. It seems that every year there is more and more emphasis to assess, with higher and higher stakes. But should home school students push against any assessment?
Unfortunately, I think that the actual meaning of what an assessment is has been blurred, misrepresented, and ultimately forgotten.
Notice that I use the word “assessment”–not test. The word “test” gives the idea of a pass or fail. However, that isn’t what an assessment is.
Plain and simple an assessment is a tool; it tells an educator academically where a student is, it might highlight the need for a closer look at a certain need and gives an idea of where the student should go next.
Let’s say that you were baking a cake for the first time with new ingredients. As you add a dash of this and cup of that, wouldn’t you pop a pinky in along the way to taste? How would you know if you need more, or less, of an ingredient unless you taste along the way? Would you wait until you put in all the hard work and baked it only to find out it’s too salty? Isn’t it better to adjust along the way if needed? Or even better, know that it tastes good and feels relaxed and confident about the result?
Assessments are like that taste test while you cook. Even if a combination of best home educators with the best of intentions, the most hard-working student, and a fabulous curriculum come together, the results are unpredictable. Every student is different; and while some techniques and curriculum might work for one third-grade male student, for example, it may not work for his friend up the street. Or maybe the home educator just wants to check to see if a student is getting the content and material; if they are, why hold them back by continuing to teach a skill they’ve mastered just because some arbitrary timeline says they need a few more weeks exposure? The only way to really know your student’s achievement level and the possible need for intervention and additional support or change in curriculum is by assessment.
I encourage all home school educators to give a low-stress assessment of the core skills of reading, math, writing, science, and social studies, at least every other year. The assessment doesn’t always have to be a formal, big event. However, the selection of the assessment should be thought out to get a realistic gauge of student achievement and needs. By doing so the home educator can be confident that they really are doing everything they can to help their student hit their highest achievement level.
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