by Mike McHugh
Nearly half of the states within the U.S. require home school students to pass standardized achievement tests each year. These testing laws were enacted several years ago by those legislators who bought into the notion that such testing was the least intrusive way for the state to monitor home taught children to ensure that they were receiving an education that was comparable to students in the public schools. Sadly, this logic is being accepted by a growing number of home educators and home school associations across the United States who are weary of haggling with state school officials over the issue of parental rights, and who now regard testing requirements as a reasonable compromise with state school officials.
Contrary to the view of some parents and home school leaders, the more I dwell on the subject of achievement testing regulations, the more problems I begin to recognize on a biblical, educational, and constitutional level. In the first place, state mandated testing promotes a perverted and inflated view of the state’s interest in education. In specific terms, it undermines the true purpose of compulsory school attendance laws by suggesting that such laws were intended to ensure that all children receive an education that is totally comparable to students in government schools. How easy it is to forget that the true object of compulsory attendance laws is that all children attend school --- not that they be educated in a particular manner or place. It is one thing for the state to require parents to compel their minor children to attend some public or private education program so that they might have the opportunity to be functionally literate. It is an altogether different matter, however, when the state tries to limit a parent’s authority over their children’s training by demanding that the “private” education that their youngsters receive be a clone of the government schools.
In addition, most of the achievement testing laws unfairly discriminate against home school parents, because they require them to forfeit their inalienable right to teach their children at home when their students get a low test score while leaving public school teachers free to instruct classrooms full of young people who often test poorly. In light of the fact that there are millions of young adults in America today who have attended a public school, (in complete compliance with state law) and still turned out to be functionally illiterate, why has no state legislator proposed legislation that would require public schools to close their doors if their students fail to test well?
The question needs to be asked: Why should home school parents lose the God-given right to direct the education of their children simply because their students learn facts and information at a different rate than children in the public schools? After all, the decisions that home educators make regarding what specific concepts they want their children to study and when they believe it is best to teach their students specific information are, for the most part, an intensely religious undertaking. For this reason, home school parents should not be surprised when state testing laws slowly but surely begin to erode their academic and religious freedom.
State mandated testing laws have additional problems as well. A few of them are listed below:
- If the state can dictate the specific academic knowledge that home school students must know at the end of a school year, they in reality have achieved the power to indirectly control all of the major academic goals of home-taught children during the entire school term.
- Most state-approved achievement tests contain a humanistic bias in areas such as science and social studies. Since most Christian home educators use Bible-based textbooks, they can only prepare their students properly for secular based testing if they expose them to material that is contrary to their religious convictions.
- It is unreasonable to assume that primary age children can be evaluated accurately on the basis of one or two tests. Most educators recognize that children under the age of ten often perform inconsistently on achievement tests, especially when they are under pressure or in a strange environment.
- State testing laws often require home school parents to have their children tested by state certified/qualified teachers. Such requirements directly undermine parental authority and privacy. These regulations also provide the state with a “back door” means of requiring that state certified teachers be involved in a particular home school program.
These points, as well as others that could be mentioned, clarify why state testing requirements will ultimately contribute to a net loss for academic freedom and parental rights. It is wise, therefore, for home educators to work diligently in the days ahead to get their elected officials to pass legislation that will remove the power from state school agencies to mandate testing of their competitors, i.e. home educators. The best that one can say about state mandated testing is that it is an expedient means to try to solve the current debate concerning the state’s interest in education. Nevertheless, it is my hope that home school parents will not be satisfied with an unholy standard of academic freedom that includes the chains of state mandated testing.
Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh
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