Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Test Those Homeschoolers!

In the state of Washington, there is a requirement that all school aged children (meaning grade 3 and above, the way the law is written) undergo some sort of evaluation. The law, as far as it goes, is pretty easy to comply with. This year, we chose to take the test that our virtual academy "sold" us. My children took the same tests that ~L~ talks about here: http://mama-hobbit.blogspot.com/.

I sent a somewhat angry letter to the virtual academy. My children were not as distressed as hers were over the test, and for them it was just an oddity. But it was a really shitty test, honestly.

That said, their results came in today and both of the children are in the 99th percentile for their grades on both segments of their exams. What that MEANS I don't know. Here's what I sent to the academy:

I am writing to express my dissapointment re: the MAP test. My daughter's reading/language test never once tested her reading abilities, instead focussing on syllables; this is a testing focus which I find bizarre and unlikely to yield accurate results concerning my daughter's actual english/language arts comprehension or capabilities. Both of my children encountered a question regarding school vacations, which is something entirely foreign to them and an unfair question, particularly considering that it was one of only a couple of its type. My son's mathematics test, supposedly at kindergarden level, skipped quickly from "click three elephants" to a division problem without manipulatives or illustrations.

This test at first struck me as simply bizarre. The more I think about it, however, the more unhappy I am with it. There is little positive to be said for this test and how it played out for my children. It seemed to have little to do with what they know or what they are capable of, and "adaptive" it is most certainly not. I cannot see how this test would in any way tell us anything concrete about my children and their academic progress, having covered extensively such oddities as "which has three syllables" but never testing any reading ability whatsoever.

We are through this hurdle and then some, but I'm pissed that this test was sold to us as being a decent option. It isn't. It took my son just over 30 minutes to complete, and my daughter just over an hour. Convenient, yes. Easy to take, not so much. A valid measure of my childrens' progress? Even if I take off my "tests are almost universally flawed because they test only a few of the many dimensions of learning" hat, I can't see how this would be a valid measure of my childrens' progress. A valid comparison with other children, perhaps. But it doesn't tell me anything useful; I still don't know what my kids' strengths and weaknesses are, or where they have gaps in their learning/understanding. I just know they spanked other kids their age on the same question set. But...so? What do I do with that knowledge?

My kids, for what it's worth, were underwhelmed by their 99th percentile scores and the "super job!" post-it note attached to their score sheets.

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