Idaho Homeschool History
The Dawning Age of Homeschooling
Idaho Education Code 33-202 in 1992 read:
33-202 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COMPULSORY …Unless the child is otherwise comparably instructed, the parent or guardian shall cause the child to attend a public, private or parochial school…
Homeschooling was in its infancy. Many parents wanted feedback on whether or not their children were making academic progress comparable with their publicly schooled peers.
Some homeschooling parents, who were credentialed teachers, devised a means by which Idaho homeschooled students could take a nationally-normed, standardized test; the IOWA Test of Basic Skills. In 1992 this was the test in use by Idaho public schools, and by most school districts in the United States and many foreign nations.
It was important to these parents that the results be confidential, and yet assessable for a group aggregate score. They also wanted testing to be affordable.
They set up an elaborate and completely volunteer system, so that much of the expense of testing could be eliminated. They arranged for scores to be sent to parents only, while collecting a compilation score of all homeschool scores for lobbying purposes.
A parent pays only for the actual cost involved with the test itself, without any administrative additions. ICHE eliminated the need for expensive and time-consuming answer sheet preparation by asking an adult mentor to sit beside each testing sibling group to monitor the tests for mechanical errors and to clean-up any stray marks.
After a few years, a soon-to-be Governor of Idaho stopped by the display on Pie Day, and asked some simple questions. He asked if the scores gave any hope to a parent who was removing their child from a traditional school. Could such a child be remediated? A simple tweak segregated our compiled scores by whether a student had always been homeschooled, homeschooled presently but not always, homeschooled one year or less, or two years or less. The new data did in fact give hope to parents removing their child from traditional school. On average, the test scores of a student homeschooled for three years or more, are on par with a student who has always been homeschooled.
Idaho homeschooled students have been offered voluntary IOWA testing for 25 years. Their high scores have earned our freedom.
In 2002, Idaho public schools left the IOWA test behind and developed their own Idaho Scholastic Achievement Test. Homeschoolers have chosen to continue taking the IOWA test because it encompasses a wider body of knowledge, and it gives national perspective. It is not tied to specific standards spelled out by Common Core State Standards, but rather, it covers a whole body of knowledge.
The IOWA test also better gauges a student’s actual ability since it tests at grade level, and beyond by one and a half grades. This typically allows a student to display how much they actually know, and at what level they may begin to be challenged by the questions.
There are many excellent reasons to take voluntary IOWA tests through the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators. These include:
• An unbiased assessment of how a child compares academically with their peers. No more guesswork.
• Testing in a stress-free and even fun environment, in 19 locations across Idaho.
• Our aggregate test scores help us to maintain our Idaho homeschool freedom. This is one reason why it is important to test through ICHE, so that your student’s scores are added into the aggregate scores.
• High school students who score on the 80% or above are eligible for nomination in Who’s Who Among American Scholars, and are eligible to wear gold honor cords in the Idaho State Homeschool Graduation ceremony.
• High school students who score on the 90% or above are awarded Summa Cum Laude scholars and are eligible to wear white honor cords in the Idaho State Homeschool Graduation ceremony.
• Testing is an acquired skill. It is wise to give children practice before they have to take their high-stakes college entrance exams.
• While we do not recommend sharing actual test scores with others, it does give our extended family critics peace of mind to know that our children do participate in standardized testing and they are usually quite pleased to hear that, “the kids are doing great.”
Read more in this series on Idaho Homeschool History.