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Assessment – Frequently Asked Questions (with answers!)

 The law pertaining to assessments for homeschoolers changed with the enactment of Senate Bill 206 during the Spring of  2003. Here are some questions people are asking about the changes. If your question is not answered here, please send it to info@wvhea.org or WHVEA’s US mail address. We promise to answer promptly.

 Do I have my child tested and also provide a portfolio review?

No. According to the law, one academic assessment must be done yearly. Testing is one such academic assessment. Portfolio review is a separate means to fulfill the assessment requirements of the law. However, some standardized tests do not assess in all the required subjects (reading, language arts, math, social studies and science); people who use these tests sometimes submit a portfolio review for the missing subjects.

 Can I have my child tested this year but do portfolio review next year?

Yes. It is acceptable to have the child tested one year, have his portfolio reviewed the next, test the next year and submit some other means of academic assessment agreed upon by you and the county personnel the following year.

 Must I notify the county in advance of what assessment I plan to use?

No. Some counties do ask for this information, and it’s fine to tell them what you expect to use, but you are not obligated to tell them, nor to use the assessment you specified. One exception: If you plan to test with the county schools, notify the county office and the local school as early as possible in the school year to make sure they have the testing materials available for your child.

 Which standardized test must my child take?

Homeschooled children can take any standardized test that has been nationally normed within the past 10 years. The law no longer specifies certain tests. The only other stipulations for this type of assessment are that the student’s knowledge of reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies must be assessed and that a parent cannot administer it. WVHEA’s testing service will continue to use the TerraNova (Form C), but there are many other tests homeschoolers can try. The SAT-9, the Iowa, the CAT, and the MAT are a few of the well-known tests that are available, but you might also want to consider individual achievement tests such as the Woodcock-Johnson. One resource to check is www.gomilpitas.com/homeschooling/articles/010499b.htm for information about tests and testing services.


The law says my child’s average test score has to meet or exceed the 50th percentile, or show improvement from the previous year. What if this is my child’s first year testing and his score is below the 50th?

WVHEA  discussed this question with the WVDE’s Karen Larry, and it was agreed that the child’s first test score can serve as a baseline against which all future scores can be compared.


 What if my child’s average test score is below the 50th percentile? How can I show that his score has improved from last year?

Here are some ways to show improvement:

·         Increase in mean of percentile scores of at least 1 percentile. For example, if your child’s mean percentile score is 35 one year and 36 the following year, acceptable progress has been demonstrated. 


·         Advancement to next grade level with equal or greater mean score. If the percentile mean is 35 one year and 35 the following year on the next grade level exam, then acceptable progress has been demonstrated.


·         Increase in mean scale score on the same test series. The scale score is calculated by adding up points for correct responses, with more points given for more difficult questions. The scale is progressive within a particular test series (like the TerraNova or Iowa), so that, for example, 15 out of 20 correct on the third grade test will result in a higher scale score than 15 out of 20 correct on the second grade test. Because of this, an increase in the mean scale score from one year to the next indicates the child has made progress during the year, even if the percentile score (which depends on how the norm groups at the different grade levels performed) has not increased.


·         Increase in mean normal curve equivalent (NCE). The NCE provides an equal-interval scale ranging from 1 to 99, coinciding with the percentile scale at 1, 50, and 99. Unlike the percentiles, the difference between two successive scores on the NCE scale has the same meaning throughout the scale, and it means the same thing no matter what test or level was used. This property allows you to make meaningful comparisons among different achievement test batteries and among different tests within the same battery. So the NCE score could be used to compare scores from two different tests your child takes — say, the Terra-Nova one year and the Iowa the following  year — and an increase would document acceptable progress.


Now that the SAT-9 will no longer be given at WV public schools, can homeschoolers still satisfy the annual assessment requirement by testing in the schools?

Yes. The part of the law pertaining to annual assessment was written to allow homeschoolers to comply with the annual assessment requirement by participating in the public school testing program. As most people know, the SAT-9 has been retired from use in WV public schools and replaced by the Westest. The new test will be given in all WV public schools next year (2003-04). The Westest has been in the works for a long time, and we (WV taxpayers) paid a lot of money for it! The test is a mixture of questions written to coincide with the WV Instructional Goals and Objectives and questions purchased from the CTB/McGraw-Hill TerraNova series. This combination will give administrators two kinds of scores: a criterion-referenced one that shows how the students and schools measure up against the state's stated objectives, and a norm-referenced one that shows (like the SAT-9) how they measure up against a national norm group. Whether a student has made acceptable progress will be determined by the current guidelines of the state testing program.


 How do I arrange to have my child tested in the public schools?

Many counties send out a letter to homeschoolers each year notifying them about the deadline for requesting testing. Some counties have developed good procedures for administering tests to homeschooled students – a homeschooler in Jackson County has described very well-run and friendly testing experiences at her local school board office. Other counties may not have as much experience with testing homeschoolers. It’s best to talk with the county school board well ahead of testing time and find out where and when your child will take the test. If testing will take place at a school, make sure the school expects your child. It’s good practice to have verification of the testing arrangements in writing and to confirm them with a phone call shortly before the testing date.


I want to use a portfolio review to assess my child, but the wording of the law has changed for this type of assessment. What do those changes mean in terms of how my child will be assessed?

One important change is that the person who conducts the review must be a certified teacher and the teacher must provide his/her certificate number. Another significant change is that the teacher must evaluate the child’s progress in reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies and make note of any areas in which the child shows a need for improvement or remediation. Homeschool consultant Linda Campbell, who reviews portfolios for many homeschoolers, says that the new legal specifications conform to the way she currently conducts reviews, and they will not alter any part of the review process. What does change is the way the review is reported; it must now refer specifically to the five named subject areas and indicate whether progress commensurate with the child’s abilities has been made in each subject. For more information about portfolios, see About Portfolios.


What is an “alternative academic assessment of proficiency”?

An alternative assessment can be anything that you and the county superintendent agree is acceptable. To find out more, read Alternative Academic Assessment.  

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