unschooling and mandatory testing - Mothering Forums
Unschooling > unschooling and mandatory testing
TigerTail's Avatar TigerTail 08:19 PM 01-24-2003
hi. i realize many states have many different requirements in regards to testing, and perhaps some of y'all have not been burdened with the testing garbage that we have here in tn. but now they are mandating federal testing for certain grade levels. (thanks, bush! way to go!)

those of you who calmly let years go by w/out say, suggesting math, how are you working this with the tests? is it just not an issue yet because of grade level or the individual state you're in? if that's the case, what will you be doing when it becomes pertinent? (i'm guessing, say 'if you want to continue to unschool there are things you need to be able to pass', & then leave it up to them? surely you'll let them know, right?)

i absolutely loathe testing, think it an abomination (ironic since i got the highest psat scores in my junior class, & have always tested exceedingly well; ironic also since it has proven to have little bearing on how well i have succeeded in school or work)... however, my opinion does not make a difference when it comes to getting the state's permission (ugh!) to do what is my natural right & give my kids the freedom to unschool.

my dd (16) is reconciled (depressingly so- this kid needs deschooling badly- why did i ever send her to ps... oh yeah, work ) to doing the crap-work to pass the tests, but i have two littles i'd like to work out the kinks with before it becomes an issue- sigh, sometimes i think it may be better to just go all charlotte mason than deal with this. i hate the government telling us we must test! i would just continue to 'misdirect' the b of ed regarding hours (we do 4 hours of sit-down schooling every day, in 8 college prep subjects every day! honest! bah), except with all the coming years of new mandatory tests i don't want to 'get in trouble' (ugh again!) and lose the legal right to hs at all, kwim?

ideas anyone? (besides continuing to 'misdirect', and in addition to getting activist w/ the local unschoolers)? btdt, it won't change the new federal (triple ugh! my libertarian soul cringes!)requirements. even the religious umbrella schools have to test.


khrisday's Avatar khrisday 08:59 PM 01-24-2003
Wel, like you said thing vary from state to state. KNowing your state laws and your rights is very important. In my state, the testing can be waived (for any student, wetehr they attend ps, private school, or homeschool), but the schools won't tel you that. From what I have heard- most kids who are unschooling do fine on these tests, so I doubt that extra time and effort is really necessary if the child is already learning and growing. Personally, I have a child with special needs who will not be required to take standardized testing.
anythingelse's Avatar anythingelse 09:29 PM 01-24-2003
-- I think only eight states in the nation prescribe standardized testing as the only method of evaluating home schooled students.
And in a couple of states like Montana I think they had legislation brought up last year but it was not put into law because of the tremendous voice of todays homeschool parents. My state has no record keeping or testing requirements, but we have a new govenor (democrat) who- the rumor is- has big plans to reform education policy because of his upcoming budget changes for our state. I can not imagine this passing because when they brought up the mandatory enrollment age lowering there was a huge vocal movement by homeschool parents here that stopped that right away. I have a friend that lives in a state that requires some testing and her best friend a former teacher and hs mom so is her kids proctor and it is not a big deal to them, they unschool and they also teach to the test for two weeks before and the kids think the tests are simple. Maybe you could ask others at a hs group meeting how they cope with the testing? Maybe there is some local secret person/group that is better for unschoolers??
Isn't the record keeping in TN more of a PITA then having the kids started testing in 5th grade? Do you have to repeat the testing again after that?? I think I would start lobbying for some changes in my state and trying to elect school board officials that are hs friendly. Maybe by the time your little ones hit 5th grade, the law will not require the tests. I wish you luck!!
rsps's Avatar rsps 10:58 PM 01-24-2003
As khrisday said, in CA you can waive the test's under current law, but I've been wondering if that is going to change with Bush's new plan and federally mandated tests. I believe it would take a change of state law to actually make everyone take the tests, so it's not likely to happen soon.

As to Tenn. --do you have a State homeschool association that you could ask? Do they have to pass the tests to continue to homeschool or could they take them and "fail" and you could just get on with your real learning?

good luck

Jyotsna's Avatar Jyotsna 02:46 AM 01-25-2003

What city are you in? We are in Southwest TN, and here you can sign up your child with a particular religious school (umbrella school). But technically, since we are signed up with this school, we are more legally like "school at homers" (for lack of better term ! : )

We have paid the fee to sign up I believe we don't have to have our child tested because my son is considered a student at the school. I am the home teacher in this case, and and report the grades twice yearly to the school, keeping the grade records at home too.

From what I understand, this is the only way to avoid testing in our city. Now, understand that I have to shovel a lot of feelings about getting religious crap in the mail from them, and that they ask us to say that we go to church ect, but this is one way to tweek the system, and it is perfectly legal.

I do think about test taking in terms of learning a skill. Test taking is just a skill, and when and if our kids go off to college, they WILL have to take tests. If your child ends up having to take a test, just approach it that way...like explaining what helps the test taker to make the best score on the test. Still the same, it creates pressure in learning, that wasn't there before, and I don't think it is very positive at all. But if she has to take a test, she can at least learn all about taking test.

Good luck. If you are in Southwest TN, you may be able to sign up under this religious school and avoid testing at all.

Good luck,
TigerTail's Avatar TigerTail 03:16 AM 01-25-2003
jyotsna, are you w/ gateway? you might want to doublecheck those testing requirements- i looked at A LOT of annoying (and i'm a christian! it bugs me too!) religious umbrella schools, and i didn't see one that didn't require testing.

none of the people in my playgroup have a highschool student- hmmn, haven't been to tn homeschool legislation yahoo group in awhile- that's the one that is trying to do things like say, not require all umbrella schools to be all christian (how do they get away w/ this! of course, that is not how it is written, but the de facto result- i.e., the umbrella schools must be from this list, & whoop! they're all christian) & get rid of testing, etc. but w/ the new fed regulations, good luck. few school districts (even homeschooling friendly, like mine) are going to jeopardize their funding by disregarding Big Brother.

the tests are not so easy in the upper grades, if you haven't been *studying* a subject and are not a natural whiz at it- my dd's math scores have been abysmal for a couple years(technically, they were low enough that they *should have* according to state statute, required an *accredited* outside tutor to continue to hs, and if that doesn't work, then i believe you are supposed to go back to ps... however, we seem to have slipped thru the cracks. but that's not something i want to count on, you know?)

i wish there wasn't this accursed call for 'accountability' that led to all these demands for testing! It's SOOO STUPID!!! Rant rant! Just because public schools suck by their very nature, we (who care enough to allow our kids an education) must bow to the test gods! argh! i hate this! (lolol, this is so funny, since i was the only kid ever happy on 'test day'! my time to shine on faking out the lame test-writers.)

gotta go, wakey baby, thanks, suse

edit after baby done nursing, but still wakey
vanna's mom, the record keeping is nothin' (compared to the portfolios etc required by other states).
Jyotsna's Avatar Jyotsna 03:22 AM 01-25-2003

Yes, it is Gateway. I will check again and post back here. Are you able to sign up with Gateway? It is very inexpensive. If you are, and they don't require testing, then your problem will be solved.

I think the difference between real unbrella's and Gateway is that they consider each child as being part of their actual school. Since in their regular classes, the children are tested, this is considered school at home. Homeschool is completely independent, and that is why TN requires testing for non Gateway students.

Getting back to you soon about this,
TigerTail's Avatar TigerTail 03:52 AM 01-25-2003
thanks, jyotsna- i'll have to see if i can find my gateway stuff in my files, i could be wrong (i know gateway was getting some questioning by the 'folks in charge' for awhile a couple years ago, glad to hear they're still in business ) they seemed to be by far the least intrusive.
i know they required somebody to vouch for you; i asked if my local hs store (who has monthly meetings) met their requirements and they said 'no', (and gave me the name of somebody they work with)- i assume my informal unschooling playgroup won't work as a 'support group' either (they said it was just to make sure that you were not isolated, but had a support system, wtf then?)... the other way is if somebody who already hs's w/ them vouches for you (by far easier than the hoops i was reading in their material!)

i'd rather dissemble to gateway (yes, you can talk to our pastor, my husband- we home church ) than to the government. ok, i'd *rather* dissemble to the gov., but gateway doesn't have such stiff penalties

thanks again, suse
lilyka's Avatar lilyka 03:59 PM 01-25-2003
In our state testing is required for 2nd, 4th, 8th or something like that. We do more than unschooling but don't stick with any scope and sequence and I certainly don't test my children. We aren't worried about standardized tests though. dd will be about 10 when she takes the 2nd grade test and these test are generally way below grade level at that. Also you can pick any test you want, so if you are worried about a certain subject find the one that has that subject easy. Also, here I can have a friend administer the test. So she could be sitting at her friends house asking questionsetc .. . No biggie.
Dar's Avatar Dar 11:59 PM 01-25-2003
If you're thinking of spending $ and joining an umbrella school, how about Clonlara? Pat Montgomery is a total unschooling advocate and they have a great program. You don't have to worry about the state's BS at all because your child is technically a private school student, not a homeschooler - no testing! If I lived in a state that pulled a lot of crap with homeschoolers, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.


Madame Ovary's Avatar Madame Ovary 02:22 AM 01-26-2003
If your state will allow your child to be enrolled in an out-of-state umbrella school, there is also West River Academy in Grand Junction CO. They are an unschooling umbrella school and just keep records and offers consultations. The students are technically enrolled in a private school, which satisfies the legal requirements in some-- but not all-- states.

Also, Suse, have you queried about this on the Libertarian unschooling site?
TigerTail's Avatar TigerTail 04:09 AM 01-27-2003
thanks guys- no, in tn you can only have a tn umbrella school (sucks, because there is a fine non-rigid non-religious one in alabama i would use)- that is a big problem, because all tn umbrella schools have to be 'accredited' by some organization that appears on a list- a list of all christian schools.

'If I lived in a state that pulled a lot of crap with homeschoolers, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.' If you lived in a state that pulled a lot of crap you might not be able to. (they've always been a little pricey, so i didn't delve into it.)

i'm looking at some state law now... it's looking pretty 'testy'... i'll let y'all know what i find.

barbara's Avatar barbara 08:08 PM 01-27-2003
What exactly does your state do if a child tests below level in a subject?

Our state requires either testing or a portfolio review by a certified teacher. We have done both over the years. When we have tested our children have generally tested far beyon grade level in most subjects. However, their were a few years where math was well below grade level. The private school we tested through was concerned. I was not. Those same children went on to do will in college. The state never said a word to us about when they were below level or above. That was a number of years ago, since I no longer put my kids through testing, so perhaps the state is tougher on homeschoolers now. I doubt it though, the school superintendents are so overworked they really don't have time to monitor homeschoolers closely.

I guess I'm suggesting that your dd might just score high on the tests as unschoolers tend to learn and know more than we suspect. But even if she scores low, she probably won't be any lower than a good percentage of the public school kids her age. What do they do with a ps kid that scores low on the tests? probably the worst they do is make them repeat a grade, but more likely they are just told to get a tutor and retake the test in 6 months or a year. So have your dd study and retake the test.

Maybe I'm niave of your state's requirements, but I wonder if maybe it really isn't as big an issue as one would think, to score below grade level.

Wishing you well,
Dar's Avatar Dar 02:26 AM 01-29-2003
I dropped Pat Montgomery (the director of Clonlara) an email and asked about the legality of a Tennessee homeschooler being a Clonlara student. She said they have many current students living in Tennessee and have served students there since 1979, and she asked where you're getting your information. It is a bit pricey, especially the first year (I believe after the initial enrollment fees it's only around $500/year/family) but I guess for me, it would be worth it to have the freedom to homeschool the way we wanted to, with no gov't interference. YMMV...

or you could move out west!