3 Pros and 3 Cons About Achievement Tests for Homeschoolers

Here are 3 pros and 3 cons about achievement tests for homeschoolers. There is sometimes confusion and controversy over testing. Here are two ways to look at it.

Pros and Cons of Achievement Tests for Homeschoolers

3 Pros and 3 Cons About Achievement Tests for Homeschoolers

Achievement testing never fails to spark debate in the homeschool community. Should you test your homeschoolers or not? Here are some things we have discussed with our local homeschool advisees.

Does the state require achievement testing for homeschoolers?

Some states require periodic testing for homeschoolers. If your homeschoolers are part of a homeschool supervising organization like an umbrella schools testing may be asked for or required even if the state does not.

What are achievement tests?

You may define achievement tests as a standardized test that measures a student’s academic knowledge and accomplishments so far (as measured by that test). A standardized test is a test that has been “standardized”. For instance:

  • The test give the same set of questions to each student who takes a specific level of the test
    • Researchers developed the questions and test format through testing large populations so that the material is mostly relevant and fair to the majority of students
  • Also, test administrators follow with specific instructions that are always the same
  • Then, the test is scored in the same way for each student

The standardized achievement tests that many homeschools will experience include:

  • Stanford Achievement Test
  • Terra Nova
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills

Should you test your homeschool student?

Just like the pros and cons (or yucks and yahoos) of homeschooling there are some pros and cons on the idea of achievement tests:

Remember, there’s not ONE right way to homeschool- or to handle testing. You often may experience other homeschooling parents with strong opinions about testing, one way or the other. It is not your job to please them, but to choose what is best for your homeschoolers.

With that in mind, here are some pros and cons of achievement tests for homeschoolers.

Homeschoolers, make your own decisions about achievement tests if you can, but do not take them too seriously!


1) Achievement tests provide a standardized measure of results for each student’s homeschool program.

Standardized achievement tests provide results in percentiles. The percentiles compare your homeschooler’s scores to thousands of his peers’ scores. It gives you a comparative, standard tool to see how well things are going.

Note: Your homeschooler will receive a “percentile score”, not a “percentage score”. We parents are used to seeing tests scored with a percent, such as a 94% is an A score. On the other hand, the percentile score is a comparison. For instance, if your fourth grader earned a 90th percentile score, he earned more correct answers than ninety out of one-hundred students his age.

2) Test results provide a benchmark from which to compare success over time.

You can use achievement tests as personal benchmarks for your homeschooler’s progress.

For instance, if you notice that Little Jimmy scored in the 80th percentile in Reading when he was in the third grade, but only in the 40th percentile when he was in fifth grade, you would reasonably say something is going awry. You will then have the opportunity to discover if Little Jimmy:

  • felt poorly on test day
  • has not truly understood his curriculum
  • and/or the curriculum is teaching something completely different from what is being tested

Then you can adjust the curriculum (or not) as you feel led.

One of the reasons I achievement-tested my homeschoolers each year from grades three through eight was to compare their progress year-to-year.

  • If I see a significant dip in percentiles on a subject I deem worthwhile, I will beef up the curriculum.
  • AND when my kiddo complains, I say, “It’s not MY fault- your scores dipped last year”.

3) Decent test results help keep the relatives off your back.

The REAL main reason I tested my kids back in the early days was to keep my parents off my back! My mother was an educational psychologist and she wanted to know: Was homeschooling really going to work?

The testing gave her something she respected in order to gauge our homeschool success.


1) Achievement tests do not always test what you teach.

We ran into this fairly often during the homeschool elementary years. We noticed this especially in subjects like social studies and science. My homeschooling family rarely taught according to a standard textbook.

For instance, we would spend three years on Ancient History instead of one textbook year. Therefore, we simply kept in mind that the History part of that year’s achievement tests would not measure what they were learning. We knew that there are times NOT to take the results seriously.

2) Achievement tests are not a good fit for some students.

Standardized testing will never be a good fit for all students.

  • Some students test poorly. They get test anxiety or simply reason in a manner that the tests do not measure.
  • Other students learn powerfully in multi-sensory formats, but achievement tests cannot measure this.
  • Students with learning disabilities often cannot get accurate results on standardized tests of any kind.

Actually, master portfolios are SOOO much more accurate for showing actual homeschool success.

3) Achievement tests can NEVER measure the most important parts of homeschooling.

Standardized tests can never measure the wonder in a child’s eyes when he figures out a new concept for himself. These tests can never measure the understanding gained on field trips. They cannot measure the beauty of an art project or a song sung. They can never measure the power of a poem written or a prayer prayed.

Homeschoolers, make your own decisions about achievement tests if you can, but do not take them too seriously!

One of the best ways to prepare for achievement test (or real life) is to read…a lot. Read-alouds, reading for fun, audiobooks, reading for growth and more. Check out 7Sisters’ Elementary Literature Activity and Study Guides to help.

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3 Pros and 3 Cons About Achievement Tests for Homeschoolers




Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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