Choosing a Standardized Test
Are you homeschooling and unsure of what standardized test to use? You’re not alone! With all of the options available, it can be hard to know which one is best for your child. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of standardized testing—and even if you know a thing or two!—you should start by reading our introductory page on standardized testing.
Before you go any farther, you should consider instead having your child take your state’s criterion-referenced test at your local public school. Why? As we discuss in our introductory page on standardized testing, criterion-referenced tests assess what students know while norm-referenced tests rank children in comparison with other children. We believe knowing what skill areas a child has or has not mastered is more useful to home educators than knowing how a child compares to other students. Currently, the only way to have your child take a criterion-referenced test is in your local public school (all tests available privately are norm-referenced). While not all school districts allow this, and some states specifically require homeschooled students to take norm-referenced tests, this may be an option for some families. If you are interested in having your child take your state’s criterion-referenced tests, you should contact your school district to find out if this is an option.
Most homeschooled students take one of a number of norm-referenced tests. As we note in our introductory page on standardized testing, norm-referenced tests have fallen out of use in recent years. Today, norm-referenced tests are used primarily by homeschooled students, and in some private schools. Because they are not used as widely as they were in the past, many norm-referenced tests have outdated norming and other problems. In this article, we will wade through some of the issues involved and review five norm-referenced tests that home educators may find useful. These tests are available through private testing companies that exist to serve homeschooling families.
Before we begin discussing specific tests, a few points:
- If you are having your child tested to meet a state requirement, you should always verify that the test you choose will be accepted. Some states require homeschooled students to be tested in subjects not covered by all norm-referenced tests; other states maintain specific static lists of norm-referenced tests that lock parents into choosing tests that were common in the 1980s, regardless of what is available today. You do not want to have your child tested only to learn that the test you used is not accepted in your state!
- Regardless of what test or testing services you choose, you should always ask to see a sample student report before choosing a test. The more detail you receive with your student’s testing report, the better! Some testing services or tests may offer informational resources designed specifically for teachers, such as a detailed breakdown about the skill sets being tested; if possible, you should make sure that you will receive this as well.
- You should always have your child’s standardized test administered by a proctor, rather than administering it yourself. While some testing companies make it possible for parents to administer their child’s test, CRHE strongly advises against this. This is because it is very easy to unfairly advantage or disadvantage your children in a non-standard testing environment. Standardized tests should always be administered by a qualified, objective party (not a family member or friend) in a neutral location. You may want to ask your local school district or local homeschooling groups for the name of a certified teacher who might be willing to administer a standardized test, perhaps for a small fee. Some homeschooling families have their child’s test administered in a room at their local public library. In some areas, local testing centers or homeschool groups may also offer testing, often with other children at a physical location. Some testing services may also offer test proctoring online, via Zoom.
Finally, if you have not already, please read our introductory page on standardized testing. On that page we discuss the development and purpose of testing; the reasons homeschooled children should take standardized tests; the difference between criterion-referenced and norm-referenced standardized tests; and how to get the most out of a norm-referenced test. This page is written with the assumption that you have already read our introductory page and are familiar with the concepts presented there.
Tests with Detailed Testing Reports
Home educators who have read our introductory page on standardized testing will know that it is very important to us that tests offer parents more than a percentile score. Knowing where your child scores relative to the average child is less helpful than knowing the specific skill areas where your child is excelling, and those where more work is needed.
We have only found two norm-referenced tests that offer parents detailed information about the skills their children have mastered or areas where they need additional work. These are the P.A.S.S. and MAP Growth tests. The P.A.S.S. was designed for homeschooled students, while the MAP Growth test is used in public schools and is updated regularly.
The P.A.S.S. (Personalized Assessment of Student Success) is available through Hewitt Learning, a nonprofit organization that was co-founded by homeschool pioneer Raymond Moore with a mission to equip home educators. This test, which is not timed and covers reading, math, and language, was developed specifically for homeschooled students.
If you choose the P.A.S.S. test, you will receive a packet of papers which will include both the tests (there are multiple levels) and a pretest. The pretest will allow you to determine which test level your child should take. We recommend that parents hire a proctor to oversee the test. After your child has taken the test, you will mail the packet back to Hewitt, which will grade the test and send you a testing report.
Parents receive a detailed testing report with specific information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, along with practical ideas for providing ongoing instruction in areas where their child is still developing. This is not something we have seen any other test do!
Another interesting feature of this test: parents receive a percentile score that shows how their child performed relative to other children who were homeschooled.
You can see sample scoring results for the P.A.S.S. test here.
My state requires a test. Can I use the P.A.S.S.?
While the P.A.S.S. has never been administered to students in public schools, it does offer a national percentile score; as a result, many states and school districts do accept the P.A.S.S. test for homeschool testing purposes. However, you should double check with your state or school district before selecting this test, as some states require parents to choose tests from set lists that may not include the P.A.S.S. test. If you have trouble getting this test accepted by your state or school district, you can reach out to Hewitt Learning for assistance.
How is this test normed, if it has never been used in public schools? Hewitt Learning created its national percentile score by having a group of students take both the Metropolitan Achievement Test and P.A.S.S. test in 1988, and matching and calibrating the data between the two tests. Hewitt plans to re-norm the test at some point in the near future.
The NWEA MAP Growth (Measure of Academic Progress) test is taken online, and adjusts to become harder or easier depending on students’ answers. This test is used in many public schools (often as a supplement to the state assessment), and is available to home educators through Homeschool Boss. Homeschool Boss offers the MAP Growth test for math and reading, with science as an additional option; the test is untimed, but each subject test takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.
The MAP Growth test is designed to be taken three times per year (fall, winter, spring). Many school districts use MAP Growth to track student progress over time. Home educators can use the test this way as well, administering the test to their children three times each year, or they can choose to have their children take the MAP test annually instead.
The MAP Growth testing report contains pages of detailed information on which specific skills need to be reinforced, developed, or introduced. This level of detail is unmatched in any other testing report. Another reason MAP Growth is used by some school districts is that it also provides a lexile score, which helps teachers know what reading level is appropriate.
The MAP Growth test stands out in another area: it is not as old as most other nationally norm-referenced tests available to homeschooled students. In addition to recent norming, the MAP Growth aligns with the Common Core State Standards, which we consider a good thing! (For more on state learning standards and why you should follow them, see here.)
You can see a sample Math Growth testing report here.
My state requires a test. Can I use the MAP Growth test?
If you choose the MAP Growth test for your child and are testing to satisfy state requirements, you should verify that your state or school district accepts the MAP Growth test. While the MAP Growth test is nationally normed, and is used in many public schools, some states’ homeschool statutes or state departments of education require parents to choose tests from outdated, 30-year-old lists that may not include the MAP Growth test.
Tests that Offer Parents Less Feedback
Below, we will offer information about three additional norm-referenced tests. In our opinion, these tests do not offer sufficient information about students’ performance in specific skill areas to make them as useful to home educators as the two tests discussed previously. However, not all states or school districts accept the P.A.S.S. or MAP Growth tests.
The CTP, Iowa Form E, and Stanford 10 satisfy most states’ testing requirements and are at least somewhat up to date. Remember: one problem with most existing norm-referenced tests is that they are old tests; in some cases these tests still use norming from the 1980s. (To learn more about criterion-referenced and norm-referenced tests, and why states have moved away from norm-referenced tests, see our introductory page on standardized testing.)
The CTP (Comprehensive Testing Program) was developed by the Educational Records Bureau, a nonprofit educational records organization that serves independent private schools. The CPT is offered to homeschooled students through Homeschool Testing Services.
The CTP covers math, language arts, and science. Students who take the CTP sign up for a specific testing date or dates through Homeschool Testing Services; the test is proctored professionally online. Please note that Homeschool Testing Services also offers the Stanford 10 test. When you sign up, you will want to make sure you are signing up for the correct test.
What sets the CTP apart? Because it is used regularly in independent private schools, the CTP is more up to date than many other nationally normed tests available to homeschooled students. The CTP is aligned with the standards set by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE).
In addition to offering national norming, the CTP also offers both a suburban public school norm and an independent private school norm. As a means of comparison, parents may find these norms more useful than a national norm. (Note that the CTP is not required in public schools and is administered primarily to students being admitted to gifted programs; this makes the suburban public school norm somewhat unrepresentative.)
The CTP report generated by Homeschool Testing Services does not offer the detail of reports offered by the P.A.S.S. or the MAP Growth test. This is a major limitation of the CTP, and should factor into your decision of which test to take. However, the CTP does show student performance broken down by specific skill areas, such as probability or sentence construction, and offers a percent mastery score for each.
The CTP also offers a lexile score for reading and a quantile score for math.
You can see a sample CTP testing report here.
My state requires a test. Can I use the CTP?
Probably! The CTP is a nationally normed test and should be accepted by most states and school districts for homeschool testing purposes. However, you should verify with your state or school district that this test is accepted before selecting it, as some states require parents to choose tests from lists that may not include the CTP.
How is the CTP nationally normed, if it is not regularly used in public schools? This is a good question! In order to create a national norm, the test is piloted at a subset of public schools that match the national breakdown; the test is re-normed every 5-10 years. This allows the CTP to offer a national norm in addition to its suburban and independent norms.
Iowa Assessment Form E
The Iowa Assessment Form E is offered through a variety of different homeschool testing providers, such as Seton Testing, as well as others. In most cases, the testing services ship a physical copy of the test by mail, parents administer the test (we recommend hiring a proctor) in their home or at a neutral location center (some families reserve a room at the library). Parents then return the test by mail, and the testing service scores it and creates a report.
The Iowa Form E covers English Language Arts, math, science, and social studies. The Iowa Test has been popular among home educators since the 1980s. The Iowa Test used to be used in public schools as well. However, as states have moved from norm-referenced tests to criterion-referenced tests, public schools have discontinued using the Iowa Test.
Form E is the Iowa Test as updated in 2012; this update included a substantial overhaul designed to align more closely to the Common Core State Standards. (For more on state learning standards and why you should follow them, see here.) Form E was also re-normed at the same time; as a result, its national percentile score is less outdated than those of some other tests (for more on the Iowa Form E’s norming process, start on page 11 here).
The quality of testing reports companies publish for the Iowa Form E vary; some are quite limited in terms of the amount of information they provide parents. The best testing reports list how many questions in each skill area the student attempted, and how many they got correct. However, some companies’ testing reports do not offer even that. Make sure to view a sample score report before choosing a testing company.
You can see the Iowa Form E score report offered by Seton Testing here.
My state requires a test. Can I use the Iowa Form E?
Almost certainly yes. The Iowa Form E is a nationally normed test and should be accepted by most states and school districts for homeschool testing purposes. However, you should always verify with your state or school district that a test is accepted before selecting it.
The Stanford 10 is offered through a variety of different homeschool testing providers, such as Seton Testing (online), Brewer Testing (online), or Homeschool Testing Services (online or pencil and paper), among others. While the Stanford 10 can be ordered and completed at home using pencil and paper similarly to the Iowa Assessment Form E, it is most typically taken online. Parents choose a specific testing window, and students complete the test online. The Stanford 10 is not timed. We recommend that parents hire a proctor to oversee the test.
The Stanford 10 covers English Language Arts, math, science, and social studies. It is the tenth edition of the Stanford Achievement Test, originally developed in 1922. While this test was once used widely in public schools, public schools have used it less as states have moved from norm-referenced tests to criterion-referenced tests. Today, the Stanford 10 is most commonly used by homeschooled and private school students.
The Stanford 10 was published in 2003, before the Common Core State Standards were developed; however, an analysis conducted by the test’s publisher, Pearson Education, found that the content the test covers does align with the Common Core State Standards. (For more on state learning standards and why you should follow them, see here.) The Stanford 10 was also re-normed in 2018 using a nationally representative sample of students, making it more up-to-date than many other norm-referenced tests available to homeschooled students.
Stanford 10 testing reports typically list how many questions in each skill area the student attempted, and how many they got correct. Some testing reports will mark whether the student is at mastery, above, or below in each skill area. However, testing reports may vary. Make sure to view a sample score report before choosing a testing company. In some cases, companies may offer more than one form of report; make sure that you will receive the full report (not an abbreviated report), and that this report includes Lexile scores.
You can see the Stanford 10 report offered by Seton Testing here.
My state requires a test. Can I use the Stanford 10?
Almost certainly yes. The Stanford 10 is a nationally normed test and should be accepted by most states and school districts for homeschool testing purposes. However, you should always verify with your state or school district that a test is accepted before selecting it.
Don’t forget to read the other articles in this series!
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