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    Off Topic - Frustrated with Test Prep

    I'm in the middle of trying to prep for the ITBS test that I'm going to give my kids next week. I think. I've never seen this test before so I ordered from seton testing and had them send me a practice test also. That was kind of a waste. It only had a few questions per subject. Going over it this morning made me realize that my kids needed more exposure so I decided to get a month subscription to TestingMom.com. I spent the money, got the account and tried to settle in to the different practice tests they have. Immediately I was confused. Their tests show that 2nd grade should have covered multiplication and division. I just don't think that's right. Nearly half of the math questions revolved around multiplication/division. I called and asked why the practice area didn't align with the testing materials from ITBS. They told me that their site was mainly used for kids trying to get into the gifted program. If I wanted to truly prep for the test it would be better to go backwards a grade. Which made no sense. Why prep a kid on stuff that's not going to be on the test at all?

    If anyone else has found a good ITBS test prep program/book, that actually "looks" like the test will look, I'd love to know about it.
    Melissa

    DS (MP3) - 9
    DS (MP2) - 7/8
    DS (K) - 6
    DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2

    #2
    Melissa,
    I am so sorry for your frustrating experience. Ugh! Seems wonky, to be sure. FWIW, we never did any test prep. We lived in NY and VA, and had to submit tests in both places. In NY we did the Seton tests; but in VA, we ordered the online CAT test from Christian Liberty Press. They were all super easy and the kids did great. Maybe try not to worry? Let each one take this year as a learning experience of how to do them? By the time mine had done it twice, they were like old pros who looked forward to them each year.

    AMDG,
    Sarah
    2020-2021
    16th Year HSing; 10th Year with MP
    DD, 19, Homeschool grad; college sophomore
    DS, 16
    DD, 14
    DD, 12
    DD, 10
    DD, 8
    DD, 6
    +DS+
    DS, 2

    Comment


      #3
      You do not need to do test prep. Just skip it. The few questions they had as samples are plenty exposure for the format of the test. In general, most kids do pretty well. Look at the categories of topics covered in the scope and sequence chart for the grade you ordered (level 7-8 for end of 2nd grade). From that, create a game plan for review of those concepts over the next week or so. In the young grades, it's very simple. There's reading amounts, money, estimating, whole number addition and subtraction word problems, and a huge portion is listening skills. If I remember correctly, last year there were so many stories you had to listen to and remember details from the story, like who ate which ice cream flavor or who didn't ride in a car vs. walk. It's just not something you can really "practice for." Are you doing end of 1st and end of 2nd?
      Mama to 2

      Summer:
      MPK with SC1 Phonics & Math
      SY 20/21
      4A

      Comment


        #4
        I've also found that the samples questions are enough practice for the tests. They just helped them to be more familiar with the format/ type of questions in the tests.
        ***Using some 5A and 8A MP materials for 2020-2021***

        Comment


          #5
          My 3rd grader took the ITBS this year and we didn’t do any test prep. Classical education teaches you how to think. When my daughter got to a problem she didn’t know she was able to eliminate answers and make an educated guess because she is used to thinking. These tests are a snapshot that show a student’s ability on one given day. Does your state require a certain level of proficiency? What are you hoping to achieve with the test prep? Try not to stress about it too much.
          Heidi

          2018-19
          dd- 3m
          ds- SC 1
          dd- SC B

          Comment


            #6
            Mine literally played dot-to-dot on her first standardized test for the last section or two because she wanted to go play. We were testing with a local homeschool group and there were kids to play with. Those were some wonky scores.
            Bean. Long time MP user. I'm usually posting before my coffee is finished. I apologize in advance for my typos and grammatical mishaps.

            DD- 10th- AP & dual enrollment courses for 20-21.

            Comment


              #7
              I'm ashamed to admit that even though it's not required in my state, I just want some kind of extra tangible proof that we are actually homeschooling. I want some measure to know how well I am teaching them. I have one kid (in 2nd) that's kind of spectrum-y-ish, but not really. I really want to know how well I'm helping him along. I am a big believer in yearly testing because if you get used it it while you are really young, then the bigger tests that really mean something are just another test. My early years were in private school and we did standardized testing from first grade on. However, I was always a good test taker - even if I didn't fully absorb the material. That came back to bite me later! Even still, tests didn't scare me because I always felt comfortable with them, having seen them for so long. I kind of liked them because they were different and were like puzzles more than stressful experiences.

              I'm not having the same experience as everyone else it seems with my boys or even my own experience. My spectrum-y kid goes off subject, forgets what the question is asking, forgets how to answer them at all...The other is having serious problems understanding that I can't help him with every single new question, and a few of the same problems as my older. We can't "talk our way through" the test. Yes, they are accustomed to the many speed drills, but somehow that isn't translating over to this.

              Although they can alphabetize 5-7 words, being asked to select words before, after, and between these words was actually a 20 minute lesson alone. I had to make flash cards on the concepts of before, after, and between. I've had to review synonyms and homonyms. Getting my older son to switch from answering one type of question to another (homonyms to synonyms) was a big challenge. Even if he could recite the definitions of both, even if we could identify examples of both, getting him to switch between them based on what a new questions is asking is a challenge. Getting them to understand that the punctuation rules are not following the idea that all sentences start and end on the same line. There's several questions that have a few sentences in the form of a very short paragraph and they have to find the punctuation problem. They get confused why the sentence bled over to the next line - and granted, it does look kind of weird when the spill over is only for a 2 line portion of the sentence. Although they understand these rules of punctuation/capitalization, seeing it in this format is strangely stumping them.

              One thing I wonder - and this is going to sound terrible - is if it's a gender thing. My only daughter is 2 and I swear she just "gets" things. I feel like with boys I almost have to teach them - very granularly - how to think. Like...wash the soap out of your hair, dry off your soaking wet body before you put on clothes (I swear this is all 3 boys)... remember to wipe every single time... My girl - she just feels years and years older. She actually tells me when she needs a diaper change. My sons could have cared less. She communicates. She problem solves. She takes things to the next logical level. I had to actually go through the process of painfully teaching my sons how to use a straw. No lie. All 3 of them. And two of them are absolutely neurotypical. My 6 month old daughter got it immediately. I had to painfully teach them how to use a fork. I handed a fork to my daughter, and at 1, she just stabbed her food and put it in her mouth in the 2 seconds I turned my back before trying to help her for the first time.

              So, I can't help but wonder if my sons just need that granular training of how to apply what they know to these kinds of questions they've never seen before. I don't feel like it's a fair test of their knowledge of grammar rules if the only place they are having problems is the standardized test format. I truly envy you guys that showed your kids the few sample questions and they took it running. I honest to God feel like I have to teach the sense portion of "common sense" and that is why I am putting myself through this annoying drama. I really do have to "over teach".

              Here on day 2 (I purchased some ITBS samples from Teachers Paying Teachers) we are actually doing much better. Yesterday was literally crying, wailing, dripping tissues...total failure. Today, they are actually happy. They feel more like this is doable. They are starting to actually read the questions and not just start filling in circles based on what they think the question "should be".

              Thank you guys for your support yesterday though. I just had a ....moment...
              Melissa

              DS (MP3) - 9
              DS (MP2) - 7/8
              DS (K) - 6
              DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by MBentley View Post
                I'm ashamed to admit that even though it's not required in my state, I just want some kind of extra tangible proof that we are actually homeschooling. I want some measure to know how well I am teaching them. I have one kid (in 2nd) that's kind of spectrum-y-ish, but not really. I really want to know how well I'm helping him along. I am a big believer in yearly testing because if you get used it it while you are really young, then the bigger tests that really mean something are just another test. My early years were in private school and we did standardized testing from first grade on. However, I was always a good test taker - even if I didn't fully absorb the material. That came back to bite me later! Even still, tests didn't scare me because I always felt comfortable with them, having seen them for so long. I kind of liked them because they were different and were like puzzles more than stressful experiences.

                I'm not having the same experience as everyone else it seems with my boys or even my own experience. My spectrum-y kid goes off subject, forgets what the question is asking, forgets how to answer them at all...The other is having serious problems understanding that I can't help him with every single new question, and a few of the same problems as my older. We can't "talk our way through" the test. Yes, they are accustomed to the many speed drills, but somehow that isn't translating over to this.

                Although they can alphabetize 5-7 words, being asked to select words before, after, and between these words was actually a 20 minute lesson alone. I had to make flash cards on the concepts of before, after, and between. I've had to review synonyms and homonyms. Getting my older son to switch from answering one type of question to another (homonyms to synonyms) was a big challenge. Even if he could recite the definitions of both, even if we could identify examples of both, getting him to switch between them based on what a new questions is asking is a challenge. Getting them to understand that the punctuation rules are not following the idea that all sentences start and end on the same line. There's several questions that have a few sentences in the form of a very short paragraph and they have to find the punctuation problem. They get confused why the sentence bled over to the next line - and granted, it does look kind of weird when the spill over is only for a 2 line portion of the sentence. Although they understand these rules of punctuation/capitalization, seeing it in this format is strangely stumping them.

                One thing I wonder - and this is going to sound terrible - is if it's a gender thing. My only daughter is 2 and I swear she just "gets" things. I feel like with boys I almost have to teach them - very granularly - how to think. Like...wash the soap out of your hair, dry off your soaking wet body before you put on clothes (I swear this is all 3 boys)... remember to wipe every single time... My girl - she just feels years and years older. She actually tells me when she needs a diaper change. My sons could have cared less. She communicates. She problem solves. She takes things to the next logical level. I had to actually go through the process of painfully teaching my sons how to use a straw. No lie. All 3 of them. And two of them are absolutely neurotypical. My 6 month old daughter got it immediately. I had to painfully teach them how to use a fork. I handed a fork to my daughter, and at 1, she just stabbed her food and put it in her mouth in the 2 seconds I turned my back before trying to help her for the first time.

                So, I can't help but wonder if my sons just need that granular training of how to apply what they know to these kinds of questions they've never seen before. I don't feel like it's a fair test of their knowledge of grammar rules if the only place they are having problems is the standardized test format. I truly envy you guys that showed your kids the few sample questions and they took it running. I honest to God feel like I have to teach the sense portion of "common sense" and that is why I am putting myself through this annoying drama. I really do have to "over teach".

                Here on day 2 (I purchased some ITBS samples from Teachers Paying Teachers) we are actually doing much better. Yesterday was literally crying, wailing, dripping tissues...total failure. Today, they are actually happy. They feel more like this is doable. They are starting to actually read the questions and not just start filling in circles based on what they think the question "should be".

                Thank you guys for your support yesterday though. I just had a ....moment...
                Melissa,

                What you're seeing is the difference between special needs and neurotypical. After six children with a variety of (albeit mild) needs/delays, our youngest never ceases to amaze us. We didn't realize how delayed everyone else had been until she came along. Seriously. And we have other girls.

                I would use the practice tests as a way to teach further skills (as you've been doing) but I wouldn't do the actual test. It's not going to show the fruits of your labor because it wasn't developed for children with special needs. Instead, I would print out the Simply Classical assessments and fill them out at the beginning of the year and the end of the year. You could also do the individual assessments in the front of your SC Curriculum Manual.

                That will help you gauge your unique children's progress far better than ITBS or any other standardized test.
                Jennifer
                Blog: [url]www.seekingdelectare.com[/url]

                DS16: MP, MPOA, HSC, Breaking the Barrier French
                DS15: MP, MPOA, HSC
                DS12: Mash-up of 6/7M
                DS11: SC 4
                DD9: 3A with First Form Latin (long story!)
                DD8: Mash-up of SC 1/2
                DD5: January birthday, using SC B and C as a two-year JrK

                Comment


                  #9
                  Melissa,

                  Please accept my apology if my answer sounded cavalier. We have our own struggles, the ITBS just happened to not be one of them. If testing, connecting the dots or jumping from one idea to the next is a challenge, then over teaching makes sense. I’m glad you found some better resources.

                  When I received the ITBS scores, I did feel very validate in what we are doing does work. I don’t think you should be ashamed. Those feeling are very real. I also think Jen’s suggestions of using the SC assessments is a good one. They include social and emotional benchmarks which isn’t including with the ITBS. If you have any papers from previous years, it can be reassuring to look at those and see progress.
                  Heidi

                  2018-19
                  dd- 3m
                  ds- SC 1
                  dd- SC B

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Yeah, my little guy is a whole different ballgame. I'm holding off as long as I can on testing him...and even then, we're going to pursue all legal accommodations for his vision & sensory issues, whether that be more time or reading aloud of written instructions and choices.

                    Just by doing the same test each year he will become used to the format. Last year, I found out they used certain terminology that we hadn't really come across in ShillerMath or Saxon, so after the test we went over some of the words (number sentence, expanded form, line of symmetry--although we did know this one, and the comparison of units of measure that would be more likely--like cars drives in miles, people measure in feet tall, ice cream is sold in pints or gallons). Also, I always remind my NT child that she can't talk or ask questions, that if she doesn't understand to use her best guess, to listen closely for a detail at the beginning of the story that might be asked later...and if she can use scratch paper that she can write down little notes in shorthand. For the timed portions in math, which left my daughter in tears last year, I reiterated that it's not really meant for her to finish. It's meant to get harder at the end, and that if she runs into one she doesn't know, she can guess or leave it blank, but that she should attempt the next one just in case. We did hit a few in math that she couldn't do, but then she got the last 3 problems right, which was cool. Continue in the practice tests to make them read all of the choices before selecting an answer. Today, in our practice, my daughter asked a good question: what do I do if more than one is right? I told her that her math was off if there were ever 2 or more right answers, and to go back and carefully read each sign. For the spelling portion, I tell her to think of where the syllable would break and whether there is a spelling rule or known phonogram or Latin root that would help figure out if it's right. I always tell her to look over her answers if she has extra time, although truthfully, a lot of them didn't even have questions above the answers. Also, tell them not to get hung up on erasing. You can erase stray marks, darken ovals and fully erase old choices if this fine-motor activity is too difficult.

                    And seriously consider the wise advice above. You don't have to test. I would NEVER test my son if I didn't have to. NEVER. MP is so excellent, and as standards continue to get farther away from a classical education, it's going to be harder to accurately reflect our children's beautiful education. There is nothing standardized testing good for that you can't get by assessing your child through MP's tests and quizzes.

                    Here, watch this from Hillsdale Collge on what common core has done and continues to do to the testing industry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCoOv_DwaAk

                    Children anywhere near the spectrum have such a hard time with all of the implied (but not overtly stated) information on the test. I would recommend professional testing via WISC or Woodcock-Johnson only as baseline data to highlight inherent strengths and weaknesses. Even then, be very careful about what the results might do to a struggling child, especially compared to NT siblings. The boys are GOING to want the results, and they are GOING to want to compare themselves to each other. Be prepared for what you're going to do with that.
                    Mama to 2

                    Summer:
                    MPK with SC1 Phonics & Math
                    SY 20/21
                    4A

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I think the true question with any academic test (standardized or otherwise) is what are you trying to measure? To follow that question: What is your goal or standard for your kids to reach on that particular test? If they don't meet that goal or standard, what does that really mean? And what will you do with that information? If they don't do as well as you hope or want to see on the ITBS how or will that change your homeschool? Do you want a test that you have to prep for outside of "regular" school that doesn't reflect what they've been learning and you've been teaching all year long? Does the test you've chosen reflect in your words, "tangible proof that we are actually homeschooling"? Does it really validiate, "how well [you are] teaching them"? I would say no, obviously, so then I would go back to the first question.

                      I understand wanting to test for the sake of it...we did the CAT test this year "just because". When I got the tests, I looked over the questions before they took it and all I could see were the holes and gaps in their knowledge and I freaked a little. BUT I did absolutely no test prep with them. I wanted to see what/how we were doing in our homeschool compared with a pretty low-pressure standardized test. The funny thing is that the "lowest" scores they received (which were not low at all) were in the grammar section! Grammar! I just had to laugh. The thing is, the test just emphasized different aspects of grammar than what we've covered in EGR and Latin these past few years.

                      Again, I totally understand wanting to do standardized testing. But at the end of the day, it just isn't designed to measure what we're doing in our homeschools with any sort of accuracy. Heck, judging by the amount of test prep public schools do here every year, it isn't even very good at measuring what they are doing there either!! Test prep for the sake of the test may help them do better on that particular test, but then I have to ask...what are you *really* trying to measure? If you've studied how to do well on one specific test for weeks or a month, then maybe (big MAYBE) you have an accurate reflection of what they are capable of ingesting and regurgitating in a month's time, but is that really measuring their education or your school at all?
                      Jodi
                      ~~~~~~~
                      2019-20 School Year:
                      Ethan (7A)
                      Matthew (5A)
                      Silas (1st)
                      Eleanor (4yo dabbling in PK as time allows)
                      Andrew (brand new as of Oct 2019)

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Fabulous thoughts, Jodi! Wow. Good points. There is no harm in wanting a general idea of where your child is in relation to others, but there are better tests for that, like general intelligence tests administered by professionals. You can't "prep" for those. For those of us who have to test, we just want the state off our backs and no cause for child protective services or the local school board to violate our right to privacy and academic choice.
                        Mama to 2

                        Summer:
                        MPK with SC1 Phonics & Math
                        SY 20/21
                        4A

                        Comment


                          #13
                          We moved to a new state and are now required to test 4th grade and up. The first year, we did a few practice pages, so they understood the types of questions and how to fill in the bubble sheet. We did no further prep that year, and nothing at all the second year. If my purpose is to see what they know and where they need improvement, then cramming test prep materials different from our usual curriculum/style seemed contrary to my own goals.

                          Also, we chose not to share any of the results with our kids. My oldest two are less than 14 months apart - one is highly gifted, one struggles. I found the test results helpful (and validating that MP is doing a GOOD job with my struggling kiddo), but sharing the results with the kids would likely damage already sensitive emotional states. We did switch math programs with one kid after last year's test, and he made *tremendous* improvement this year. If, however, we had done much test prep, this feedback on the curriculum change may have been clouded.

                          Best of luck in your decision!
                          Amanda - Mama to three crazy boys (7A, 6M, 2), classics major

                          "Non nisi te, Domine. Non nisi te" - St. Thomas Aquinas

                          Comment


                            #14
                            One of the reasons I did choose this test was in part because of MP. From other forum discussions, they test the kids at the Highlands Latin School with the ITBS form A. So that is the one I picked up. They don't do the social studies or science of that test. It just seemed to me that for whatever reason, MP decided that this was a relevant test for their own students for these grades. If they are technically studying the same materials (at least up until 3rd where there is a deviation between 3M vs 3A) as the kids in the homeschool group, then there would be no reason to not follow their lead. As best as I can tell, it's not a state requirement for them.

                            Truly, I just feel like this is something I need to have as a metric should I ever need it for any reason. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, where does my husband begin to pick up the pieces with getting the kids educated? I had a parent die in my early years, so this isn't a random mental fantasy. When I was switched from private to public school, the public school wanted to put me in their most basic math class. My standardized testing scores prevented that. So in a scenario where I'm suddenly gone, if he selects to educate them away from home (in whatever type of school that might look like), how would they go about placing them? Would this help to have? Would my kid with a few challenges be pushed into classes that under-value his capability? Besides the "hit by a bus" scenario, even though Texas is very light handed when it comes to homeschool oversight, is there ever a case where having this could come in handy? (Estranged relatives causing problems - possibly?) Does this show all interested parties that I've at least tried to do my due diligence?

                            It just looks like standardized testing isn't going anywhere. I learned a long time ago that the test isn't a true representation of what you know, yet that doesn't really matter to the people who use the metrics for that purpose anyways. You have to learn the "how" of the test questions so that they can't surprise you. Like I said - these aren't truly good measures of...well...anything. But they are used relentlessly by other entities. You need to know to look for very specific things in the questions - otherwise, you get things wrong, even on mastered topics. I figure this is just another one of life's hoops that I believe I, and by extension my kids, have to learn to navigate and jump through. The SAT/ACT/PSAT/NMSQUT are truly only a few years worth of these ITBS/SAT/CAT practice tests away. I feel like time is always speeding by and I want my 1st and 2nd grader to have done this a handful of times before we get to those bigger tests. I get the impression that colleges really rely on those test scores from the homeschool group. These tests are a sick game. They only help people who learn to play by their rules. Right or wrong, (I believe it's wrong, btw) you are somewhat judged by your scores. I truly hate that, but my feelings about them don't matter.

                            I do so appreciate the encouragement though. You all truly want me to rest in what we are doing as a curriculum. I do. It takes so much to say that I have peace with something, but I truly, absolutely, without hesitation, believe in this program. My husband has comfort with this program. He believes his children are getting a superior education - and that's a great comfort to me too. People comment on my kids in a very positive way. If I reveal that we homeschool, they nod approvingly, believing that alone is making them "good kids". It's really weird how people's perceptions for homeschool have changed. What used to be something "odd" is now the new "gifted program". Everyone "would if they could". Everyone. Not one person has said they are happy with their kid's current schooling. Their kids are doing non-stop testing, "active shooter drills", and being coached on the normalcy of internet pornography searches to the 12 year olds (real stories from my neighbors). I rest in this program.

                            You all are wonderful coaches and mentors for me. Thank you for your support in my frustrations. God bless you all.
                            Melissa

                            DS (MP3) - 9
                            DS (MP2) - 7/8
                            DS (K) - 6
                            DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by MBentley View Post
                              One of the reasons I did choose this test was in part because of MP. From other forum discussions, they test the kids at the Highlands Latin School with the ITBS form A. So that is the one I picked up. They don't do the social studies or science of that test. It just seemed to me that for whatever reason, MP decided that this was a relevant test for their own students for these grades. If they are technically studying the same materials (at least up until 3rd where there is a deviation between 3M vs 3A) as the kids in the homeschool group, then there would be no reason to not follow their lead. As best as I can tell, it's not a state requirement for them.


                              It just looks like standardized testing isn't going anywhere. I learned a long time ago that the test isn't a true representation of what you know, yet that doesn't really matter to the people who use the metrics for that purpose anyways. You have to learn the "how" of the test questions so that they can't surprise you. Like I said - these aren't truly good measures of...well...anything. But they are used relentlessly by other entities. You need to know to look for very specific things in the questions - otherwise, you get things wrong, even on mastered topics. I figure this is just another one of life's hoops that I believe I, and by extension my kids, have to learn to navigate and jump through. The SAT/ACT/PSAT/NMSQUT are truly only a few years worth of these ITBS/SAT/CAT practice tests away. I feel like time is always speeding by and I want my 1st and 2nd grader to have done this a handful of times before we get to those bigger tests. I get the impression that colleges really rely on those test scores from the homeschool group. These tests are a sick game. They only help people who learn to play by their rules. Right or wrong, (I believe it's wrong, btw) you are somewhat judged by your scores. I truly hate that, but my feelings about them don't matter.
                              Couple of things to think about...
                              Are you sure that HLS is giving the ITBS in K, 1, and 2? Kentucky’s website makes it seem that public schools don’t administer standardized testing until 3rd so I doubt they are starting much earlier. Homeschool students may not have to be tested, but HLS is a private school so they will have different rules. I agree that testing needs to be done even if your state doesn’t require it of homeschoolers, but I have typically waited until 3rd or 4th grade to start. I agree that it seems time flies by, I blinked and my baby just turned 6, but you do have time to get them accustomed to standardized testing before the PSAT. Just because it is a goal, doesn’t mean it needs to happen this year. Peace on your decision!
                              Dorinda

                              For 2019-2020
                              DD 16 - 11th with MPOA(AP Latin), Lukeion (Greek4 & Adv. NT Greek), Thinkwell (Economics and Chemistry), plus Pre-Calculus, American G’ment, Early Church History set, and British Lit
                              DS 14 - 8th with MPOA(Fourth Form), CLRC(Intro Lit and Comp), plus Algebra, Field Biology, Classical Studies 1
                              DS 11 - 6th with Right Start Level G online class
                              DS 6 - 1st with Prima Latina

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