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Got questions about homeschooling? Get Answers from HEAV's Yvonne Bunn, director of homeschool support and government affairs!

Achievement Test Level

Q. How do I know what achievement test level I should order for my child’s proof of progress?

When ordering an achievement test, HEAV recommends following the publisher’s recommendations for the appropriate grade level. Typically, you would choose the grade level that would correspond with the child’s age and grade if attending  public school. For example, if your student would be in third grade in PS, then you would order the test for third grade.

Some confusion has been created by the use of an older online version of the California Achievement Test (CAT). This version of the CAT was normed almost 50 years ago. It is no longer published or scored by CTB/McGraw Hill. It has been purchased by a private company and made available at a reduced price for homeschool online testing.

In the 1970s, when this test was in wide use, it was the publisher’s policy to give the test to students at the end of the year who were “going into the next grade.” Therefore, students completing third grade would take the test designated as the fourth grade test because it showed preparation for the next grade. This is no longer the standard procedure for test administration. Choosing “the grade the student will be going into” applies only to this early online version of the CAT.

Although Virginia’s homeschool statute does not limit norming dates for standardized achievement tests, the 1970 norming date for this particular CAT test may raise questions with some superintendents. Parents should be aware that curriculum and test contents have changed in the last 50 years. Experienced test administrators consider the math portion for some levels of the older CAT to be more difficult than recently normed tests. Also, the language arts portion for some levels may refer to things with which today’s student may be unfamiliar. For example, the older version of the CAT test includes a question about what to use when searching for a book at the library. It shows a picture of a card catalog cabinet with small draws. Today’s student may miss that question because he has never seen  a piece of furniture like that in his library. He is only familiar with using a computer and mouse for book searches.

When choosing the appropriate test level, if you have concerns that your student may not obtain the minimum composite score of 23 percentile, HEAV suggests you choose another acceptable method of showing progress–an evaluation. An evaluation may be completed by a licensed teacher or a person with a master’s degree or higher. The written evaluation will indicate your child’s progress based on a criterion-referenced test or based on samples of his work from the beginning of his homeschool experience to the time of the evaluation.  With an evaluation, the student’s academic progress is not compared to the scores of other students his same age who took the same test. Instead, progress is determined by comparing the student’s earlier work to his work at the end of the year.

Something else to consider: if your child’s composite score is above 23 percentile, but you feel he has done poorly across all subject areas and needs to repeat the grade, you have the option to retain him. In this case, you would repeat the same level test the following year. Permission from the superintendent is not required, but be prepared to explain your decision if asked by the superintendent. This link provides more information on withholding a child.

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