Are you ready for annual assessments?

Chapter 18, Article 8, Section 1 lays out the compulsory school attendance requirement in West Virginia, and the exemptions–including homeschooling. In order to qualify for exemption c, subdivision 2, you must begin homeschooling with an NOI (parts A and B), and “obtain an academic assessment of the child for the previous school year“. There are four ways to do this, two of which are not usually recommended.

Recommended:

  • WVHEA offers the first option every spring: “a nationally normed standardized achievement test published or normed not more than ten years from the date of administration and administered under the conditions as set forth by the published instructions of the selected test and by a person qualified in accordance with the test’s published guidelines in the subjects of reading, language, mathematics, science and social studies”
  • The third option is a portfolio review by a certified teacher. This is a recommended method, although WVHEA does not typically recommend working with public school teachers because they are rarely aware of the legal requirements of homeschooling. WVHEA maintains a list of portfolio reviewers, although WVHEA does not endorse any particular reviewer. The homeschooling parent is responsible for locating a portfolio reviewer with whom they feel comfortable, and paying for the portfolio review.

Not Recommended:

  • The second option (the testing program currently in use in the state’s public schools) is not usually recommended, because homeschoolers are legally required to obtain the results by June 30, while the public school testing program results are often not yet back by then. Every year, WVHEA takes calls from homeschoolers who have been contacted by their local BOEs because they have not yet turned in their annual assessments, because the results aren’t yet available to them. Therefore, this option is not usually recommended.
  • The final option is “an alternative academic assessment of proficiency that is mutually agreed upon by the parent or legal guardian and the county superintendent.” This is not typically recommended because of the imbalance of power between the homeschooling parent and the county superintendent. Every year, WVHEA takes calls from homeschoolers who chose this option, and find that they’re having difficulty working with the superintendent’s designee, usually because they’re not aware of the law. Therefore, this option is not usually recommended.

Once the option is selected, you are required to keep copies of each child’s academic assessment for 3 years. “The parent or legal guardian shall submit to the county superintendent the results of the academic assessment of the child at grade levels three, five, eight and eleven, as applicable, by June 30 of the year in which the assessment was administered.”

–Courtney Ostaff

New Year, New Beginnings

How do you know what your child knows? Are you worried about them being behind in math or reading? What grade are they really capable of doing? Did your child actually learn all the key concepts last year? If you’re concerned about your child being behind, or ahead, one way to figure it out is to test them.

WVHEA’s annual spring testing meets state requirements. The TerraNova is a “norm-referenced” test. Norm-referenced is a percentage ranking compared to an average population. For example, Johnny is at 45th percentile. This means if you took 100 students and ranked them from top to bottom, Johnny would be 45 from the bottom. The TerraNova is a good annual test, but your score report usually doesn’t offer the detailed information you might want as your child’s teacher–is Tommy just being difficult, or can he really not divide two-digit decimals?

One product to test your child’s math and reading levels is Let’s Go Learn’s ADAM and DORA tests–available for homeschoolers. They are “criterion-referenced” because they report in grade level equivalent scores.  For example, Jane’s phonics skills are low 4th grade level. They are also:

  • online (computer, iPad, or tablet), meaning your child can do them in their pajamas
  • untimed (as many sessions as you like, take as long as your child needs, when your child is ready to work), and
  • individualized, adaptive tests (questions change depending on whether they got it right or wrong, so you know what grade level your child is actually capable of).

The best part is that they give you many pages of detailed results (Johnny can add like fractions, but not unlike fractions, for example). Sample report.

These are not the only tests, or even the best tests (an educational psychologist can administer much more detailed, much more thorough assessments, including screening for learning disabilities), but these tests can be a useful part of your homeschool planning.

–Courtney Ostaff

Now is the time to start thinking about assessment!

The WV homeschooling law, part 18-8-1 (c)(2) requires that each home educated child of compulsory age be assessed every year in reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies. Parents must maintain copies of each student’s academic assessment for three years. The assessment results for students in 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 11th grades must be submitted to the county by June 30.
The annual assessment can be

  • a standardized achievement test nationally normed within the last  ten years, or
  • the testing program currently in use in the WV public schools and administered in a public school, or
  • a written narrative prepared by a certified teacher (commonly called the “portfolio review”), or
  • an alternative assessment agreed to by the county superintendent.

Both CHEWV and WVHEA offer standardized testing options each spring. Experienced homeschoolers do not typically recommend testing with the public schools. Aside from the time commitment, homeschoolers have had difficulty receiving test scores back before June 30.

Most public school teachers are unfamiliar with homeschooling requirements for portfolio reviews. Use a home school-friendly teacher instead. The West Virginia Homeschool Haven and the Unsocialized Homeschoolers of West Virginia Facebook groups provide easy access to experienced portfolio reviewers. Do not send in the entire portfolio, just the written narrative.

–Courtney Ostaff