The number of families homeschooling in the United States is growing by leaps and bounds. According to the online journal, Education News, homeschooling has increased by 75% over the past 14 years. Homeschooling parents have the luxury of teaching their children the way they see fit. They can teach to their children’s needs, instead of having to teach to a standardized test.
However, with the recent passing of Common Core, homeschooling parents are beginning to wonder if they may have to change their education plans. More and more parents are beginning to ask the question, I homeschool my child….should I care about PARCC or Smarter Balanced Tests?
What are PARCC and Smarter Balanced Tests?
According to the PARCC website, the goal of PARCC is to ensure “high quality assessments” which will let parents and educators see how their children are progressing in school and whether or not they are on track to succeed in a post-secondary environment. The PARCC assessment will also allow teachers to identify which students are falling behind and may need extra help.
The PARCC tests are computer based and test students in the subjects of Mathematics and Language Arts. They are being implemented in many public schools this school year (2014-2015)
The Smarter Balanced Assessments are the same thing as PARCC. The difference is when states enrolled they were given the option to choose one or the other. The big option between the two is the Smarter Balanced Assessment is more adaptive, and gauges computer generated questions based on the student’s answer. The PARCC has a fixed amount of pre-selected questions.
Both assessments have the goal of accountability both towards the school district and the state. They also will allow states to compare scores with each other. Students who are homeschooled and those who attend private schools are exempt from state testing.
Homeschoolers have been up in arms over Common Core for awhile now. There are three main reasons why homeschoolers are concerned.
1. Changes in Curriculum- Homeschooling families do not want the curriculum they have used for years to be changed and aligned with the common core due to new standardized tests. The biggest reason for this is because many homeschooling families strive to teach their children from a Christian worldview. Mandated government curriculum would not allow them to do this. Homeschooling families also do not want their curriculum “dumbed down”. Many homeschool curriculums already meet or exceed the common core standards.
2. Changes to ACT and SAT- With states having to test their students using the new PARCC or Smarter Balanced Tests, changes to the ACT and SAT seem a likely result. If these changes take place, homeschooling families may be forced to begin “teaching to the test”.
3. Government mandates- The National Education Association and many in the state and federal department of education feel that homeschoolers should have to provide the same education as public schools. The rollout of common core and the new government standardized testing means this threat could be imminent.
Should I Care?
So, should homeschoolers care about PARCC and Smarter Balanced Testing? The answer is yes, and the answer is no.
Obsessing over standards designed for public school students is not necessary. Many parents believe their choice of homeschooling provides students with one of the best models of education out there. Parents are motivated to teach their children will because they care more about their children than anyone else.
Academic achievement tests have shown time and time again that home schooled students outperform those in the traditional classroom without their parents teaching to the test. Homeschooled students typically score in the 65th -89th percentile on standardized tests. There is no reason to believe that streak will not continue.
When it comes to curriculum homeschooling families should continue buying what works best for their children, despite whether or not it is aligned with common core. Homeschooling families do not have to purchase curriculum based on the grade level on the front of the book, but can purchase curriculum based on where their child stands academically.
The ACT and SAT entrance exams are working to align their tests with Common Core Standards. This is a genuine concern for homeschoolers, and one that homeschooling families need to be aware of. However, chances are that homeschooled students will continue to score exceptionally well on these tests, despite their alignment with common core
Homeschooling parents, you are doing a great job educating your children. If you decide to administer standardized tests to your child, do it because you feel it is what you need to do to properly assess their academic progress. Do not be fearful of PARCC or the Smarter Balanced Test. Strive to give your child the best home education experience you can, and everything else will fall into place.