The Evils Of Mandatory Testing
by David Weathers
If you’ve read any of my former articles (and I certainly encourage you to do so,) you’ll have noticed that I am very pro-home school and adamantly concerned about the current shortcomings of public and private school education. One of my chief concerns lately has been that, as home schooling grows as a movement, there is increasing politics from anti-home school forces to try to interfere with or legislatively control home schoolers.
The latest such effort in my home state of Michigan concerns pending legislation to force home school students to take standardized tests along with public school students. We have been in contact with our state representative and have phoned other state reps in an effort to make our feelings known. We voiced similar concerns last year when there was legislation pending to the education committee to make home schoolers subject to truancy laws and basically invalidate home schooling.
Here is my problem with mandatory testing: it doesn’t work in public schools, so it won’t work for home schoolers. There has been much news from Time, Newsweek and others regarding standardized tests very recently. The gist of the concern is that teachers tend to teach towards the standardized tests and can neglect curriculum that isn’t covered by the state tests. Another finding I have read about is that success on standardized tests doesn’t necessarily reflect a student’s academic performance in school. Some kids can suffer in their classes but do well on tests. And there are concerns that standardized tests may handicap some students based on race, gender, ethnicity and other factors.
Yes, I know that standardized test scores are used by many colleges for entrance requirements in lieu of academic records or as part of overall acceptance requirements. For that reason, I do intend to have my kids take some standardized testing. However, my reasons are a bit different than those of the legislators. I am not trying to show that my kids are doing poorly because they are home schooled. Indeed, I have every reason to be confident that they will do well. They are smart kids. But others may have kids who are struggling a bit more, and not ready for standardized tests. They may never be, yet they may be bright kids.
According to the quote from the Congressman who sponsored our state legislation, he is doing so in response to an expressed concern “from a constituent.” “A” constituent? One person can effect legislative change? I don’t expect that if I called my representative about a concern that he would propose a bill because I, and only I, had a concern about something. I would reasonably expect that you’d need a number of expressed concerns to necessitate proposing legislation. And why would home school parents insist on this bill? Therefore, I fear that home schooling is once again under fire.
I suspect that the motives behind those who insist on mandatory testing for home schoolers are not pure. Further, I don’t believe that standardized testing is an accurate reflection of a child’s education – some of my kids are below grade level on some subjects, but above level in other areas. I don’t want to have to gear our curriculum towards the tests as traditional school teachers often do.
The real struggle, as I see it, is about choice in education. Its about teaching your kids as you, and not the government, sees fit. And that is a big part of what home schooling is all about.