Answers to Your Homeschool Testing Questions
Frequently Asked Questions About Testing
Here are answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about Virginia homeschool testing and providing evidence of progress.
If you homeschool under the homeschool statute, §22.1-254.1, you must provide yearly evidence of academic progress. The results of an evaluation or assessment should be sent to your division superintendent by August 1 each year.
According to § 22.1-254.1(C) of the Virginia Code, parents may use
- Any nationally normed standardized achievement test, OR
- An evaluation or assessment, including, but not limited to,
- An evaluation letter from a person licensed to teach in any state, or a letter from a person with a master’s degree or higher in an academic discipline, or
- A report card or transcript from a community college or college, college distance-learning program, or home education correspondence school.
The first testing option listed above–a nationally normed standardized achievement test–is used by the majority of parents. Your student may take ANY standardized achievement test; it’s your choice. He must have a composite score in or above the fourth stanine or 23 percentile in order for home education to continue the following year. A composite score is made up only of the mathematics and language arts components of the test. Students are not required to take other sections of the test even though they are in the test booklet.
While most parents use standardized achievement tests, there are several reasons parents may want to show evidence of achievement by other methods as listed in the second option above. For some, an evaluation letter will more accurately show progress. An achievement test score may not correctly reflect a student’s progress. For others, such as a student with learning challenges, a score below the 23 percentile may show satisfactory progress, but would not be accepted if a standardized achievement test was used. An evaluation letter from a teacher or a from a person with a master’s degree or higher that indicates progress has been made would work better. This type of evaluation does not compare the student to other students; it compares the student’s work at the beginning of the year to the work he is able to do at the time of the evaluation. From the evaluation letter, the superintendent will determine if progress is being made.
Other evaluation options include a report card from a student who is enrolled in a correspondence school. If a student is enrolled in a college or community college, or distance-learning program, a transcript will meet the evaluation requirement.
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. The division superintendent will require parents to file a statement showing they can provide an adequate education for their child and a remediation plan for the probationary year. Acceptance of this plan is up to the discretion of the division superintendent
Homeschoolers who have complied with §22.1-254.1 of the Virginia Code by filing a “Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction” or by writing a letter indicating their intent to homeschool must provide proof of academic progress to the school division each year. However, there are exceptions.
In general, homeschoolers must show evidence of progress if they have complied with §22.1-254.1 of the Virginia Code by filing a “Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction” or writing a letter to the school superintendent. However, evidence of progress is not required for the following:
- Children who are under the age of six as of September 30 of the school year;
- Students who are under the religious-exemption provision §22.1-254(B)(1);
- Students being taught by a certified tutor §22.1-254 (A); or
- Students who have graduated, regardless of age.
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. This also includes all sub-tests for language arts and mathematics. Science and history test sections are not required even though they are in the test booklet. 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 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 clearly state that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress to continue homeschooling the following year.
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. The division superintendent or his designee will determine if the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress.
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. Parents of high school students can submit an equivalent score on the PSAT/NMSQT, ACT, or SAT test in lieu of a standardized achievement test.
A portfolio is a compilation of samples of the student’s work from the beginning to the end of the school year. Samples are usually compiled in a notebook. 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.
Because a portfolio is not specifically mentioned in the law 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. It says, “including but not limited to” an evaluation letter, a report card, or a transcript. Although a portfolio is not listed, some superintendents may be willing to accept this form of assessment because of this carefully worded language.
If you choose to submit a portfolio, you may want to have it 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. After reviewing the portfolio, the evaluator may write a letter for the parent to send to the division superintendent. The letter must state that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress in order for homeschooling to continue.
In some cases, a parent has been known to submit the portfolio itself to the superintendent for his evaluation. This is not the recommended method; acceptance varies from district to district. However, some parents who have submitted an unevaluated portfolio to the superintendent in the past may still be able to do so because of the relationship they have developed with the superintendent
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.
Most homeschooling families will receive a form letter in the spring reminding them about testing. The information in the form letter does not apply to your child if your child is not six by September 30.
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.
Tests are available from several sources. Check with the individual suppliers listed under “Testing Resources” at www.heavelementor.wpengine.com for cost and test administrator requirements.
Be prepared to pay from $25 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.
Testing may be done anytime from late 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.
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, word-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.
There is no pass or fail, but there is a “minimum composite score.” 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.
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 have to file a remediation plan for one additional year of homeschooling. The parent must also show that he or she is able to provide an adequate education for the 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.
The parent is responsible to send the results to the division superintendent. Do not assume that your tester or test vendor will submit the results for you. Send the results to the superintendent or to the person in your school district to whom you sent your Notice of Intent form. Remember to keep a copy for your own files. Addresses are provided here.
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 according to §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). Test results should be sent directly to the parent. The parent should then photocopy the results and mail a copy to the superintendent’s office.
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.
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.
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.
Still more questions about testing?
View more questions and answers from “Homeschool Q&A,” the popular feature in HEAV’s weekly e-newsletter, the Virginia Homeschool Update.
Note: Occasionally, local school administrators devise policies that ignore the 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.