Changes in Standardized Testing Options for 2014

VaHomeschoolers has recently been fielding a large number of questions about changes to certain standardized tests Virginia homeschoolers use to provide their annual evidence of progress and would like to provide further information to help clear up some of the confusion.

There has been great confusion over the test changes made in 2014. Much of this confusion arises because families order their tests from a variety of companies; not all companies offer the same products.  The two major changes addressed below regard  the CAT/5 (along with confusing name changes), and the Stanford-10. While Vahomeschoolers will do its best to explain some recent changes in testing, we recommend you  check with your preferred testing materials provider for more information.

CAT/5

VaHomeschoolers has  confirmed that the CAT/5 is being replaced by the CAT/6 by most (but not all) test providers.  That’s the short answer; some explanation is required.  The California Achievement Test (CAT) has three main versions: a Complete Battery (used mostly by public schools), a Survey (same as Complete but with fewer questions in each section), and a Basic Battery (used mostly by private schools and homeschoolers, it covers only reading, language arts and math.)*  The CAT/5 was nationally normed in 1992, while the sixth edition – CAT/6 – was normed in 2005 and has been in use in schools ever since.  All versions of the CAT/5 have been discontinued for two reasons: 1. they have outdated images and vocabulary. (Ex: Students are asked about using the “card catalog” to look up items in the library; there are no references to computers; maps of countries have changed.)  And 2. the number of users of the CAT/5 is very small compared to the users of the CAT/6, making the effort to revise the CAT/5 a financial loss. So while the publisher is no longer printing or scoring this edition, some testing supply companies still have inventory available and are able to do their own scoring.

So what does this change mean for you and your child?  That depends on where you order tests and what options they offer.  For example, if you ordered tests from Seton, you might have paid $25.00 for a CAT/5 E-Survey* which covered reading, language arts and math. You can continue to order these tests while supplies last.  However, their stock of K and 1st grade tests has been depleted because the students write directly in the test booklets, which cannot then be reused.  Since the tests for grades 2 through 12 use separate fill-in-the-circle answer sheets, those test materials will be available until they wear out.  If you order the CAT/6 you’ll have four versions to choose from, all of which are the same price of $40.00. (See Seton’s website for details.)

Name changes: CAT and TerraNova

Another source of confusion has been the use of the name TerraNova.  Is it another test? Or is it another name for the CAT/6?  The answer is the latter: the CAT/6 is also known as TerraNova 2nd Edition.  The test publishers, CTB/McGraw-Hill, wanted to give its nationally-normed test a broader name not associated with a single state (California).  They produced the TerraNova 1st Edition in 1996 with the intent of replacing the name CAT.  However, since the CAT test is so widely recognized across the country, the publishers decided to ease the transition, so the revision of 2005 is called TerraNova 2nd Edition and/or CAT/6.  This double naming will not continue; CTB/McGraw-Hill has since published the TerraNova 3rd Edition in 2011, with no reference to CAT.

Stanford-10

The Stanford Achievement Test is another nationally-normed standardized test that has long been available to homeschoolers through test suppliers such as BJUPress.  It is a comprehensive test that covers language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Until recently, the requirements for a parent to be a test administrator have been as follows: 1. the parent must hold a B.A. or B.S. degree, 2. must watch a short video (now available online), 3. must become an approved tester from an authorized site, and 4. must test one’s own children as part of a larger group of non-related students.  Of these four steps, the Stanford publishers have removed the fourth: you may now test your own children without being part of a larger group.

To be clear, the bachelor’s degree is still a requirement  for the traditional method of testing. However, certain testing services now offer a new ONLINE version of the Stanford 10th Edition.  Since this version is technically administered by the testing service company, it does not require that a parent hold a bachelor’s degree. This option also has the fastest turnaround time since it involves no mailing back and forth of the test materials, and results are scored within 24 hours.  This online version is currently offered by Brewer Testing Services and Triangle Education Assessments.  Seton Testing Services is  setting up the infrastructure to offer this new version, and expect to have it available in summer 2014.

Subject Matters to be Tested Under Virginia Law

In terms of testing, Virginia law requires a nationally-normed, standardized achievement test to demonstrate evidence of progress, but it does not define what subjects should be covered. Some tests cover only math and language arts, while others include additional subjects such as science, social studies and library/reference skills. Parents may choose the test they deem best for their child, as long as it is a nationally-normed achievement test.

You can find further information on homeschool testing and evaluation, including a list of testing services companies.

* Seton Testing Services offers a different test called the CAT E-Survey, which is a shorter version of the Basic Battery covering math and language arts, and which they were able to print themselves.  This is why the testing costs have generally been lower compared with other test distributors.

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