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Questions About Grade and Age

Q. How old does my child need to be for testing?
A. Individually administered educational tests have different minimum ages. The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, 3rd edition can be administered to children as young as 4 years old. Group achievement testing generally begins in the 3rd grade.
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Q. What grade level should I have my child tested at?
A. With an individually adminstered achievement test, child automatically get to test higher or lower than their designated grade level. With group achievement tests, most parents select the grade level that corresponds with their child's chronologic age. For example, a 10 year old would normally take a 5th grade test.
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Q. Can you test my child even though she doesn't sit still for long?
A. As a homeschool parent herself, Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. is sensitive to the unique needs that homeschoolers present in more formal educational settings. Every effort will be made to make your child comfortable and confident in their testing experience, including building in additional breaks, if necessary. Ultimately, the goal of any educational test effort should be to maximize the integrity of the testing session while preserving the child's self-esteem and to obtain valid results that can help you design the best educational opportunities for your child.
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Reasons for Testing

Q. Am I legally required to have my homeschooled child tested?
A. Maryland regulations do NOT require families to participate in annual achievement testing. Pennyslvania families are required by law to submit testing results in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades. Virginia families have the option of submitting achievement test results, rather than a portfolio review.
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Q. My child will be going to school next year. Should I have her tested now?
A. Children entering into the public school system after a period of homeschooling may be assessed by their local school officials to determine appropriate grade placement. Generally, though, the K-8 guidance counselor will ask to see work samples and ask to review your curriculum.

      Having your child tested privately will help you know if your child is considered "on grade level" according to national standards for learning. Your child's results may also reveal if there are any gaps in particular subject areas that you may wish to address prior to his/her entering traditional school.

      Students who may be moving from homeschooling to private school can expect to take the Independent School Entrance Exam. The ISEE is a lot like the ITBS. You can get additional information about that test at ISEE's website.
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Q. I think my child may have a learning disability. Will testing help?
A. An individualized educational assessment is one way to begin to determine if a child has a learning disability. However, Hand In Hand understands that underachievement is not always caused by a learning disability. Sometimes a mismatch between learning styles and instructional styles cause a roadblock to learning, therefore we look at the whole child, including homeschool philosophy and curriculum, that may help explain why a child is experiencing difficulty in learning.
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Q. My child is really bright. Will educational testing help us know what to do with her?
A. Hand In Hand specializes in the needs of the highly and profoundly gifted student. While an individualized educational assessment may qualify your gifted child for certain programs, such as the Davidson Institute's Talent Development Young Scholars program; full evaluation results will help a family understand just how advanced their child may be and what alternative educational opportunities may exist.
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Differences Between Types of Testing

Q. How is testing with Hand In Hand different than what I get from the local public school?
A. Testing completed through a Child Find study at your local public school will include a comprehensive team of professionals who will work in conjunction with the family to determine what areas of concern may warrant special education services. Testing services are provided free of charge to the family and may take up to sixty (60) days to complete. Families are required to return to the school to discuss the results and to learn of what services, if any, the school would offer the child - should the family wish to enroll the child in a Maryland public school.

      While Hand In Hand follows the professional and regulatory standards established by IDEA (the Federal law governing special education services), our staff does not include a psychologist who may test for social- emotional difficulties; a speech-language pathologist; nor an occupational therapist. Our works focuses on educational assessments. We refer families for additional testing when we believe a case requires a specialized assessment that we are not qualified to conduct. Hand In Hand works closely with parents to understand the whole child as well as other factors that may affect homeschooling. Our reports thoroughly discuss test results, as well as data shared by other examiners, in an effort to explain a child's academic strengths and weaknesses. Reports are tailored to the family's homeschool philosophy so they receive recommendations that comfortably fit their educational model. Hand In Hand's goal is to empower families with information that will help them to best meet their child's educational needs.
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Q. Can I give my child the Iowa Test of Basic Skills at home?
A. Some organizations will "rent" standardized tests to homeschool families and allow them to give the test to their child in the comforts of their own home. While this appears to save significant money, the scores from such test sessions do not give a family meaningful information since most kids underperform when they test at home. In addition, test publishers actually consider these results invalid due to the lack of standardized test environment. Should you decide to go with a group achievement test, please make sure that your child is tested by a qualified proctor in an environment free from distractions.
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Q. What are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Terra Nova?
A. The ITBS and Terra Nova are group administered achievement tests. These commonly used tests examine to see if a student has mastered academic material commonly taught at a specific grade level. For example, if your child takes the 3rd grade ITBS and scores at the 95th percentile level - you will know that your child scored better than 95% of all the other 3rd grade children who took that test nationally. With this score in hand you can confidently say that your child has mastered 3rd grade curriculum material.

      At the same time, if your child is in the 20th percentile or lower rank on a group achievement test, then it's most likely that your child has not mastered the academic content for that grade level. You won't know how far behind the child may be because the test has only measured knowledge for one grade level.

      Keep in mind, that group tests have their flaws and some children score low on them, not because they don't know the content but because they're hungry, bored, restless (these tests can take up to 6 hours), not interested in taking the test, or because they're coming down with the flu. With individualized testing, a well-trained educational tester will look for outside factors that may negatively influence a test session. Should it appear that a child is hungry, overly anxious, or too tired to continue. At that point, the test session should be rescheduled for another date at no cost to the parent.
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Q. How is the WIAT-III different from group achievement tests?
A. As an individually administered achievement test, the WIAT-III allows each child to test as high or as low as they can score in the areas of Reading, Writing, Math, and Oral Language. Not only will you see if a child is "on grade level" but you will also see if there are clear strengths or weaknesses in specific areas. On a group achievement test, such as the ITBS, scores will only tell you how well (or poorly) the child achieved for the specific grade level that was tested.
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Concerns About Testing

Q. Should I have my child tested in the Spring or the Fall?
A. The time of year you choose to have your child tested is a personal preference. Some families prefer to conduct testing in the Fall, just prior to starting their newest homeschool year. Doing so gives them an idea of what type of "fresh slate" they are working with, in terms of learning retention their kids have experienced over the summer. Testing in the Spring, on the other, gives the family plenty of time over the summer to create a new plan for how the family wants to remediate any weaknesses discovered during the testing process. Some families choose winter testing, in order to conduct an evaluation as soon as they begin to see a problem that may suggest a learning difference that needs intervention.

      Whatever time of year you choose to participate in testing, results are automatically adjusted by the scoring software to reflect the amount a child has spent in a specific grade level learning new material. For example, 5th grade students who test in October are scored and ranked in relation to other 5th grade students across the country who also took the test in the Fall. Children are never penalized in their scores for taking an achievement test before the traditional school year has come to a close.
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Q. How long does testing take?
A. Depending on which test your child is taking, individuaized educational testing can take anywhere from 60 minutes to five hours. Assessments that take multiple hours are usually conducted over the course of a couple of days.
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Q. Will there be breaks in between the tests?
A. If testing is scheduled to last more than 90 minutes than a break is scheduled into the test session. Otherwise, children are encouraged to stretch in between sub-tests. Bathroom breaks are always granted at the end of any subtest. With individualized testing, additional breaks can be worked into the testing session should a child exhibit stress related behaviors.
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Q. Can my child eat during the test?
A. Eating, drinking or gum chewing is not allowed during the actual test administration. However, children are encouraged to eat a healthy snack during their stretch break, if they have brought one. Soda, fruit punches and candy are discouraged as snacks.
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Q. What can I do to prepare my child to take an achievement test?
A. An achievement test is an opportunity to see what a child knows in the areas of math, reading and writing at a given point in time in their academic career. You can't study for an achievement test. The best way to prepare your child for any educational testing is to explain to them that the test is just one way that you'll get to see just how well they've learned throughout their homeschooling. Let your child know that they can't fail the test. Having your child get a good night's sleep and eating a health meal prior to testing will also help your child do their best during the test session.
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Q. Can I stay with my child until they are comfortable in the test room?
A. While it is not encouraged, parents can stay in the testing room for the administration of the first subtest with individualized testing. Parents are expected to remain silent throughout the testing period and to not help or prompt their child in answering any questions. Breaks can be built into the test session to help a nervous child "check-in" with their parent, if necessary.
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Q. How will my unschooler perform on an achievement test?
A. Many unschoolers have successfully taken individualized achievement tests, the SAT, as well as gone on to college, demonstrating that this method of homeschooling successfully teaches a child a wealth of information. Keep in mind that unschooling can sometimes cause gaps of knowledge to occur. Educational testing will help to identify those gaps, as well as identify a child's strengths and weaknesses; helping a parent to determine how best to adjust educational plans to fully meet their child's needs.
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Q. My child is not yet an independent reader, should I have her tested?
A. Non-fluent readers can be tested with an individualized achievement test; however parents must keep in mind that score results will be limited as some subtests cannot be scored if the child is not able to read the questions independently. Independent reading is an essential skill for a group achievement test.
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Q. My child can't write, yet. Can he still be tested?
A. With an individually administered achievement test, children need to be able to hold a pencil to write numbers for the math portions, as well as write words and sentence for the writing portion.
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Questions About Scoring

Q. If I test through Hand In Hand, who will see the test scores?
A. Test scores and reports are only sent to the family who has paid for the testing service. Hand In Hand will send test records to outside parties only if a parent submits a signed letter authorizing release.
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Q. Do I have to report my child's test scores to the county school board or state department of education?
A. Parents in Maryland are not required to test their homeschooled children. If you choose educational testing for your child, you are under no obligation to share those results with your local school board. If you do choose to share the results, you are not required to leave a copy in your family's file held at the school board office.

Pennsylvania homeschool families are required by law to submit copies of test results with their portfolio in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades. Virginia homeschool families have the option of submitting test results in lieu of a portfolio review.
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Q. What are percentile ranks?
A. A percentile rank tells you how well your child did on a particular test, compared to other children of the same age or grade. A child who scores at the 50th percentile can be said to be "on grade level" because that child scored better than half of the sample of children who first took the test. A 75th percentile rank would be considered "above grade level". This child has scored better than 75 out of 100 other students of the same age or grade taking that particular test.
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Q. What happens if my child "fails" the achievement test?
A. No one can fail an achievement test. Your child's test scores may be affected by any number of reasons, including lack of sleep, being hungry, nervousness, undiagnosed learning disabilities, and medical conditions. Should your child's test scores come back unusually low, a special telephone conference will be arranged to discuss concerns.
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Q. My child scored poorly on her achievement score. Should I put her back in school?
A. Educational testing is a snapshot of a child on a random day in the child's life. Many factors contribute to a high or low score. Obviously, content knowledge plays a big part in whether a student does well on the test, but other factors can come into play, also, such as fear, fatigue and famine. If your child's scores come back lower than you expect, remember you are not a failure as a homeschool parent. While a full report analyzing achievement test results can begin to explain what may be happening academically with your child, only you as the parent have the right to make educational decisions for your child.
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Other Questions

Q. Can you test my child if I live in another state?
A. A qualified educational tester can assist families in any state.
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Q. How much does testing cost?
A. Test fees are determined by the amount of time it takes to do the testing and the type of report that is prepared for the parent. A sliding fee scale is available for families meeting income guidelines. Proof of income will be required. Payment is required at the time of testing.
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Q. Do you offer tutoring services or counseling to help us cope with a learning disability?
A. No, Hand In Hand does not offer tutoring service or counseling services to clients. We believe it would be a conflict of interest to offer educational testing and then to turn around and also offer tutoring services to help remediate any problems we discover through testing. In the state of Maryland, counseling and therapy services can only be offered by licensed clinical social workers, licensed psychologists, and licensed professional counselors.
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Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed.
homeschooled her children from kindergarten to college. Alessa holds a Masters degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University, where she was trained to conduct educational testing. Contact Alessa today to schedule your testing appointment.


March 29, 2020

What our clients say about Hand In Hand:

"Thank you again for our time and heart for children! You made our son's first homeschool assessment a major success!"

~ JS from Virginia


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