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Testing and the Law—Frequently Asked Questions

According to section § 22.1-254.1(C) of the Virginia Code: The parent who elects to provide home instruction shall provide the division superintendent by August 1 following the school year in which the child has received home instruction with either (i) evidence that the child has attained a composite score in or above the fourth stanine (23rd percentile) on ANY nationally normed standardized achievement test or (ii) an evaluation or assessment which the division superintendent determines indicates that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.
In the event that evidence of progress as required in this subsection is not provided by the parent, the home instruction program for that child may be placed on probation for one year. Parents must file with the division superintendent evidence that they can provide an adequate education and a remediation plan for the probationary year. Acceptance of this plan is up to the discretion of the division superintendent.

 

Who must be tested?

Homeschoolers must be tested if they have registered under §22.1-254.1 of the Virginia Code by filing a “Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction” or letter with the school division. Testing is not required for the following: 1) children who are under the age of six as of September 30 of the school year; 2) students who are under the religious-exemption provision §22.1-254(B)(1); 3) students being taught by a certified tutor §22.1-254 (A); or 4) students who have graduated, regardless of age.

 

What methods of assessment may be used?

Testing option (i) of the homeschool law allows homeschoolers to choose ANY nationally normed standardized achievement test. Parents may choose from a variety of tests such as the Stanford Achievement Test, the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), the California Achievement Tests (CAT), the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS-TAP), Science Research Associates (SRA), or the Woodcock-Johnson Educational Battery.

For option (i) only the composite score for language arts and mathematics (the basic battery) must be submitted. The composite score includes all sub-tests for language arts and mathematics. Science and history test sections are not required. The student’s composite score must be in the fourth stanine or higher (23rd percentile) in order to continue homeschooling.

Under option (ii), parents may submit an independent evaluation or present a portfolio to the division superintendent. If an independent evaluation or assessment is chosen, the evaluation letter must be completed by a person licensed to teach in any state, or a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline who has knowledge of the child’s academic progress. It must state that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.

The evaluator may choose to administer a criterion-referenced test (teacher-made test based on subjects that have been taught or based on the Virginia Standards of Learning). He may interview the child, review samples of his work, and type a one-, two- or three-page report indicating whether there is enough progress to go on to the next grade.

An evaluation or assessment may also include a report card or transcript from a community college or college, college distance learning program, or home education correspondence school.

The division superintendent or his designee will determine if the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.

 

May I use a portfolio evaluation?

Because a portfolio is not specifically mentioned as a form of evalua­tion, some superintendents may be reluctant to accept it. However, the law does not limit the methods of evaluation to only those listed. If a portfolio is used, it should be evaluated by a person licensed to teach in any state, or a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline who has knowledge of the child’s academic progress. It must state that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.

The portfolio is a compilation of samples of the student’s progress in work from the beginning to the end of the school year. If this method is used, a system for choosing and organizing samples of each student’s work should be started at the beginning of the year. An evaluator may review the portfolio and write a letter of review for the parent to send to the division superinten­dent. In some cases, the parent has been known to submit the portfolio itself to the superintendent.

Note: Occasionally, local school administrators devise policies that ignore these provisions in the law. HEAV suggests parents submit all evaluations in a timely fashion, know the law, and contact support-group leaders who are familiar with local policies. Seek legal counsel if necessary.

 

What can be included in an evaluation?

If an independent evaluation or assessment is chosen, the evaluation letter must be completed by a person licensed to teach in any state, or a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline who has knowledge of the child’s academic progress. It must state that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.

The evaluator may choose to administer a criterion-referenced test (teacher-made test based on subjects that have been taught or based on the Virginia Standards of Learning). He may interview the child, review samples of his work, and type a one-, two- or three-page report indicating whether there is enough progress to go on to the next grade.

An evaluation or assessment may also include a report card or transcript from a community college or college, college distance learning program, or home education correspondence school.

The division superintendent or his designee will determine if the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.

 

Do kindergartners have to be tested?

Children who are NOT six by September 30 of the school year do NOT have to be tested. The statute states, “The [testing] requirements of subsection (C) shall not apply to children who are under the age of six as of September 30 of the school year” § 22.1-254.1 (C).

If a student is five years old on Sept. 30 of the year he begins kindergarten, he will not have to be tested that year. However, if a student is six years old by September 30 of his kindergarten year, he will have to be tested. Some kindergarten students will need to be tested and others will not. Age, not grade level, is the determining factor.

 

Who may administer the test?

Test administrator requirements are set by individual test publishers or distributors. Some tests must be administered by a “qualified administrator” while others may be given by a parent who can read the test and follow testing ethics. There are qualified homeschool parents who can test your child in your own home. Check with your support group for local test administrators. Parents who want to have a test administered privately in their home or those who decide to test with a group of homeschooled children can expect to pay for the test, as well as to pay a fee for the test administrator.

The law contains no specific requirements for test administrators or evaluators. However, parents are responsible for adhering to the test provider’s standards and instructions. This may include a requirement that the test be administered by a person other than the parent or by a person with a college degree.

The law does not require that test administrators or evaluators be approved in advance by the local division superintendent.

 

Where can I get tests?

Tests are available from several sources. Check with the individual suppliers listed under “Testing Resources” at www.heav.org for cost and test administrator requirements. Members of the Home School Legal Defense Association are entitled to a discount on tests through Bob Jones University Press. Check with HSLDA for details.

 

How much should I expect to pay for testing?

Be prepared to pay from $20 to $50 for a test if you order it yourself. Costs for administering the test range from $0 to $200, depending on the needs of the student, who is administering the test, and whether the student is in a group or in an individual setting.

 

When is the best time to test?

Testing may be done anytime from February through July. However, check with the publisher to make sure you will have enough time to receive the results before the August 1 deadline. The process can take 6-8 weeks: You must order the test, have it shipped to you, take two to five days to administer the test, send it back to the company for scoring, and then have the results sent back to you in time to send them to the superintendent before August 1.

 

Are students required to take the entire test?

Students are required to take only those parts of the test necessary for determining their composite score, namely the language arts and mathematics sections. The language arts sections include components such as vocabulary, reading comprehension, language skills, work-study skills, and written expression. The mathematics sections include math concepts and math computation. Testing is not required for science, history, or any other subject beyond the language arts and mathematics components.

 

How do I know if my child “passed?”

The law states that the child must have “a composite score in or above the 4th stanine (23rd percentile),” for option (i) testing. If one sub-test score is a little below the 23rd percentile and others are above, then, with their formula, it may average out. Look at the area on the test results labeled “Core Battery” or “Composite Score” to find out if your child meets the state’s requirements.

What are my options if my child does not make the minimum test score? 

If your child does not meet the minimum composite test score of 23rd percentile you have two options:

• You may send in the low scores and possibly be put on probation for the next school year. At the discretion of the division superintendent, the parent may file a remediation plan for one additional year of homeschooling. The parent must also show that he is able to provide an adequate education for his child. Both the remedial plan and evidence of providing an adequate education must be approved by the division superintendent. In order to continue homeschooling, the child must meet the minimum score of 23 percentile the following year. If he does not meet this minimum score, you may be required to register your child in a formal school setting (not necessarily a public school).

• Another alternative is to have the student re-tested with a different standardized test, or have an evaluation done. If the student is tested by the end of May, there is usually sufficient time to make this kind of decision should it be necessary. If you wait past late May to test, results may not be returned to you until late July. This gives you little time for other options and puts you in a time crunch to get results to the division superintendent by the due date. The results of this second form of assessment may be sent to the division superintendent.

 

What happens if test scores are low?

A composite score at or above the 23rd percentile or the 4th stanine is acceptable. If test scores are below the 23rd percentile, you may choose to have the student retested with another standardized test or evaluated using an alternative assessment (an independent evaluation or a portfolio). If adequate progress is not demonstrated, the superintendent may allow the parent to file a remediation plan for one additional year of homeschooling. The parent must also present a strategy that shows how he plans to provide an adequate education for his child. The remediation plan must meet the division superintendent’s approval. It is up to the discretion of the superintendent to determine if the parent can provide an adequate education during remediation.

 

Where should I send the results?

You are responsible to send the results to the division superintendent. Do not assume that your tester or test vendor will send the results in for you. Send the results to the superintendent or the person in your school system to whom you report, and remember to keep a copy for your own files. Addresses are provided here.

 

When should the results be sent to the division superintendent?

The results of all tests, evaluations, or assessments must be sent to the local division superintendent’s office by August 1 after each year of homeschooling under §22.1-254.1. In order to allow enough time for tests to be scored (and perhaps taken again if there is a testing problem), it is recommended that parents have their children evaluated early (March-April-May). All results should be sent directly to the parent. The parent should then photocopy the results and mail a copy to the superintendent’s office.

 

What if my child has a learning disability?

If you suspect your child has a learning disability, it is important to have him evaluated by a professional and to document the results. If you choose to use a standardized test, it may be helpful to attach a copy of his evaluation results and/or an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or Student Educational Plan (SEP). It may be best to choose another form of assessment such as an independent evaluation or portfolio.

 

Are homeschoolers required to take the Standard of Learning tests (SOL tests)?

No. Homeschool students are not allowed to take the SOL tests because these tests lead to a public school diploma. If a homeschool student enrolls in a public school he may be required to take SOL tests like any other transfer student in order to demonstrate proficiency and to determine grade placement.

 

What if I disagree with a superintendent’s decision?

If a parent disagrees with a division superintendent’s decision regarding testing, probation, or any other aspect of homeschooling, he may appeal within thirty days to an independent hearing officer. Based on his findings, the hearing officer will determine the cost of the appeal and the parties responsible for all or part of the cost.

 

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